US Congress tailors waiver plan to let India purchase weaponry from Russia - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 24 July 2018

US Congress tailors waiver plan to let India purchase weaponry from Russia

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th July 18

Both US houses of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives – have jointly drafted legislation that will allow President Donald Trump to exempt close partners such as India from sanctions for buying weaponry from Russia.

The National Defense Authorization Act, 2019 (NDAA 2019) – the agreed version of which was finalized on Monday – imposes conditions for the grant of a sanctions waiver by the US president. 

Section 1294 of NDAA 2019 mandates that the waiver must promote “the national security interests of the United States”. Second, it should not involve a “significant transaction” with specified Russian security and intelligence agencies. Third, it should not endanger American alliances or coalitions or compromise US defence systems and operational capabilities.

The sanctions were imposed in mid-2017 when the US Congress, furious at what it regarded as Russian meddling in America’s 2016 presidential election, and at Trump’s apparent reluctance to retaliate against Moscow, passed a law entitled “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA). Seeking to isolate Russia primarily, but also Iran and North Korea, it mandates sanctions against countries that engage in “significant transactions” with these countries’ defence and intelligence agencies.

However, Congress has been persuaded by the US administration, especially through hectic lobbying by Secretary for Defense Jim Mattis, that CAATSA would seriously compromise Washington’s relations with countries like India, Indonesia and Vietnam, which have a predominantly Russian arsenal and are, therefore, left with no choice but to deal with Russia to keep their weaponry serviceable.

NDAA 2019 is likely to enjoy smooth passage through Congress, since committees from both houses have agreed on the text of the bill.

Officials in the United States India Business Council (USIBC), which played a lead role in pushing the legislation through the joint Senate-House conference, point out that the language is aimed squarely at providing India an exemption from sanctions, with Indonesia and Vietnam being incidental beneficiaries.

“Without India, this waiver would have been substantially less likely to have been passed. The waiver conditions in the NDAA were tailored precisely to fit India so growth can continue in the India-U.S. defense relationship. The fact that this was done despite so many other political priorities in Washington DC demonstrates the robustness of U.S.-India ties,” says Ben Schwartz, who heads the aerospace and defence vertical of USIBC.

“At a time when India is focusing on growing defense ties with the US, we applaud Congress for also focusing on protecting this strategic partnership,” said Nisha Biswal, President, USIBC.

Schwartz points out that the third enabling clause -- which is that sanctions would “result in a significant negative impact to defense cooperation between the United States and the country” -- was inserted with India in mind.

Another piece of drafting enables India to bypass the clause that restricts waivers to countries that are “taking or will take steps to reduce its inventory of major defense equipment and advanced conventional weapons produced by the defense sector of the Russian Federation as a share of its total inventory… over a specified period.”

Knowing that India would be hard pressed to meet this clause, the NDAA 2019 draft says that, alternatively, the country should be “cooperating with the United States Government on other security matters that are critical to United States strategic interests.” 

The legislation requires the US Secretaries of State and Defense to annually certify to the US Congress that the waiver has “not resulted in the compromise of United States systems and operational capabilities.”

Another part of NDAA 2019, Section 1266, seeks to build on the Major Defence Partnership between Washington and New Delhi by demanding a more detailed annual report to the US Congress on what the administration is doing to take forward the bilateral defence relationship.

It requires the annual report to include “a forward-looking strategy with specific benchmarks for measurable progress towards enhancing India’s status as a major defense partner and defense and security cooperation with India.”

The report must also detail hurdles in the relationship, actions India is taking to advance the relationship and measures that can improve interoperability between the two militaries.

“This institutionalises continuity in the relationship. It is Congress telling the US administration that we are watching, and we will hold you accountable for taking forward the US-India defence relationship,” said Schwartz.


  1. Good , so this govt did put its point across without tomtoming.
    There are some bloggers saying Modi fully in ten clutches of this country of that country. He has repeatedly stated he is only pro india, nothing else.
    Also proof we continue to buy best value for money , so its Russian tanks and helicopters, western fighter jets, indian warships.

  2. This going cap in hand to the Americans must stop
    It is widely known that the US Is determined that Russian arms Industries be prevented in enhancing their budgets by selling arms worldwide.
    This is what CAATSA the US sanctions are all about. Maintaining hegemony of US worldwide arms sales.
    U.S. Republicans have been warned by the Generals, that they are worried that competitors like China and Russia, despite their small (in comparison) defence budgets, are rapidly catching up with U.S. technologies and are on track to exceed them.
    1- The US Artillery is no match to that of Russia
    2- China will field Rail Guns
    3- China and Russia have taken a lead on hypersonic anti ship missiles
    4- The Russian S400 system is a game changer
    5- The satellites which are so important to the USA can be taken down.
    6- Both China and Russia will have fifth Generation Aircraft
    7- The US Carrier battle groups are vulnerable to modern weapons.
    The Russian economy is smaller than Indias, its defence manufacturing needs inflow of capital via international sales, it’s willing to partner with India.
    In short India has the cash, but not the know how, the cancellation of the Stealth aircraft partnership with Russia was a grave mistake.
    We will go for an unreliable supply of fish from America when,
    Russia will supply India with both the fish, the fishing rod and teach us to fish.

  3. The previous poster is right the US cares nothing for India and its people.
    Despite their soft power, projected by their culture permeating the Indian middle class, every one who deals with the US must remember it is their own sheer self intrest that will always come first. History has shown that they will not hesitate to kill millions in the less advanced countries if one iota of US self intrest is at stake.
    One has only to look at the way they treat their own poor. American policy makers hold all Indians in contempt, just as Churchill did during the colonial era.


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