New Delhi: During a meeting of top government officials in Washington between India and the US on 18 December, the latter had raised concern over New Delhi’s plan to purchase Russian missile defence systems. The US had urged India to look at American platforms instead, to enhance the level of interoperability between Indian and US forces.

The Indian Defence Ministry is preparing to go ahead with deploying Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems in 2020, despite the disapproval expressed by US officials earlier this month.

While highlighting a mounting aerial threat in the recent years, especially with the all-pervasive threat from drones, even during peace time, the Indian Defence Ministry has said: “The equipment of the first squadron is likely to be inducted in mid-2020.”

The ministry in its annual report has stated that the air defence challenge is compounded by the employment of stand-off weapons, projectiles and munitions including cruise missiles by the adversaries.

The statement has come days after the US urged India to shun the deal with Russia and prefer American defence systems. 

On 19 December, a senior US State Department official said: “The S-400 has been a longstanding issue… At a certain point in time, there is a strategic choice that needs to be made about platforms and systems, and our – certainly, we are encouraging India to look at our platforms and our systems as the most efficacious, as it’s facing challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.”

US had made a similar offer to Turkey with its Patriot air defence systems. But Ankara had categorically rejected these, saying that the American offer was no match for the offer made by Russia, with its S-400s.

India and Russia signed a $5.43 billion contract in 2018 for the purchase of five S-400 missile defence systems, despite US threats to slap sanctions on any country that buys from Russia’s defence sector under CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).

Russia will fulfil its contract to deliver S-400 missile systems to India in 2025, as it has already received the first advance payment, ROSTEC State Corporation CEO Sergey Chemezov said in November 2019.