NSA Ajit Doval cited India’s 70-year history of military hardware acquisitions from Russia. More than 60% of Indian military inventory is from Russia

National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, has conveyed to his US counterpart, John Bolton, that the integrity of American military platforms in service with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and future acquisitions will not be compromised if India goes ahead with the purchase S-400 missile systems from Russia. Doval backed India’s case with technical arguments.

Doval quietly met Bolton, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director, Gina Haspel, in a bid to convince the Trump administration that the proposed S-400 deal does merit a US presidential waiver from the provisions of Countering America’s Adversaries Through the Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Doval cited India’s 70-year history of military hardware acquisitions from Russia. More than 60% of Indian military inventory is from Russia.

The NSA travelled to the US to address US concerns over the purchase of the S-400 missile system ahead of a visit next month to India by Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

A waiver of CAATSA by President Donald Trump is essential because, in its absence, US defence contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Sirkorsky, which are supplying critical equipment to India like the C-17, C-130 J transport aircraft, Apache and Chinook helicopters, will come under sanctions.

Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, is expected to travel to Washington, after President Putin’s October visit to India, for a bilateral engagement with Secretary Mattis. The dates of Sitharaman’s visit are being worked out and she is expected to travel to Washington not before November.

It has been decided that the principals from India and the US will bilaterally engage with their counterparts apart from the two-plus-two dialogue, the first of which took place between the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries earlier this month.

While India has reduced its oil supplies from Iran before US sanctions against Tehran kick in on November 4, a high-level Indian Air Force technical team led by an air marshal was in the Pentagon last month to convince US officials of measures India will take to ensure that electronic signatures of US aerial platforms are not shared even if it acquires the S-400 system from Russia.

Both US and India are keenly watching the huge military exercise, Vostok, being conducted by Russia and China in Siberia even as signs of a new Russia-China military axis emerge.

According to diplomats based in Washington, NSA Doval not only reviewed the issues undertaken in the September 6 two-plus-two dialogue but also shared with his US interlocutors India’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East, North Korea, South Asia and the evolving geopolitical situation in the Indo-Pacific.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had shared his vision for Indo-US ties with the principals on the eve of the two-plus-two dialogue.

While India is all for engaging Russia and China for better relations, it is clear in its mind that this will not be at the cost of India-US deep ties or vice versa. Perhaps the S-400 will turn out to be a classic example how close allies could handle tricky issues.