New Delhi: The United States cannot afford bad relations with India and will not impose sanctions over the purchase of 'Game Changer' S-400 air defence system from Russia. Defence matters expert Major General PK Sehgal told OneIndia that India's air defence badly needed S-400 missiles, considering the growing capabilities of Pakistan and China.

Ever since India finalised the deal with Russia, the Trump administration has been issuing veiled threats of imposing sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Donald Trump in October said that India will soon find out about the sanctions, but the White House maintained that CAATSA is not intended to damage military ties with India.

"Sanctions will not come. They know that India needs it (the S-400 system). We are a growing superpower in our own right. What ever we need to defend ourselves we will procure it. America needs us much more in the India-Pacific region than what India needs US for. There is no way they can impose any sanctions whatsoever," Major General Sehgal said.

But, at the same time, the US has not clearly said that it would grant a waiver. Both US defence secretary Jim Mattis and secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who were in India for the two-plus-two dialogue on September 6, have strongly backed India's case for a "national security waiver" under CAATSA.

When asked if the US will clearly say that they have granted India a waiver, Major General Sehgal said, "It is upto to them to do what they wish to. There is absolutely no question of America imposing any sanctions on India. They know that we need (S-400) because we are virtually defenceless. The Chinese have got huge amount of missiles, even the Pakistan has got missiles, they even have tactical nuclear weapons. We have no, at present, air defence systems."

He said that a weak India in the Asian region is not in the interest of the United States.

Even India has made it clear to the US that the acquisition of the S-400 systems, which can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, fighter jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380-km, was an "urgent national security requirement" for it.

"When General VK Singh was chief of the Army staff, he had written an open letter to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the air defence capability of the country was zero. We were defenceless against air strikes. We needed it to protect against cruise missiles, surface-to-surface missiles , against drone, against helicopters and rockets. We must have a system that is best in the world. It is a game changer as far as Indian sub-continent is concerned," Major General Sehgal told OneIndia.

India has close defence ties with Russia for decades now. A majority of India's defence assets, ranging from air defence systems to tanks and fighter jets, are sourced from Russia. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said even before the S-400 deal that the US sanctions against Russia would not be impacting India-Russia defence cooperation. In fact, India has made it very clear that sanctions or no-sanction, India-Russia defence ties would not be effected. The main reason for this is that except for some aircrafts and Apache helicopters, the US has not sold India any of its major defence equipment or technology to India. Whereas, Russia continues to supply over 60% of military equipment to India and most importantly it shares critical technologies with India.

"Second thing is that there is no way we can annoy Russia. 62% of Army, Navy and Air Force's equipment is from them. If they block supply of spare parts, the out forces would come to a stand still. US is far away, but Russia is close geographically. We cannot have Russia, China and Pakistan coming together against us," he said.

Also, by imposing sanctions, the US may harm defence relationship with India which is considered as one of the world's most lucrative markets for arms exporters. According to a 2017 report by the UK's Royal Institute of International Affairs, India was responsible for 10.3% of global arms imports between 2000 and 2016, with Russia supplying 72% of those imports.