The United States remained non-committal even as New Delhi has asked President Donald Trump’s administration for exemptions from sanctions to clear its way to procure from Russia 21 MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The ongoing military stand-off along the disputed India-China boundary prompted New Delhi to fast-track the procurement of the fighter aircraft from Russia. The procurement, however, may make India vulnerable to the US sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

New Delhi already started a discussion with the US, arguing for exemption from the sanctions mandated by the CAATSA. Trump Administration, however, remained non-committal, underlining that the CAATSA itself had no provision for exemptions for India or any other particular country entering into a defence deal with Russia and the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, would take calls on imposing sanctions mandated by the 2017 Act or granting exemptions on a case-to-case basis.

The two sides are likely to continue talks on the issue. New Delhi’s envoy to Washington D.C., Taranjit Singh Sandhu, will meet US Deputy Secretary of State, Stephen Biegun, later on, Thursday. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his US counterpart Mark Esper may speak to each other over the phone soon.

The US Congress in July 2017 passed the CAATSA to impose sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Trump signed it into law in August 2017 and its scope was further expanded in October 2017. Section 231 of the CAATSA mandated secondary sanctions to any nation entering into high-value deals to procure military hardware from Russia.

The procurement of the 21 MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia and upgrading the 59 previously acquired fighter aircraft would cost India approximately Rs 7418 crore. The 12 Su-30MKIs would be manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in India under license from Sukhoi Aviation JSC of Russia, involving an expenditure of Rs 10730 crore.

“There is a growing strategic convergence between India and the US, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region,” a source in New Delhi told the DH, adding: “We hope the US will understand India’s need to expeditiously enhance its defence capabilities and will not take any action that could hinder efforts to boost our preparedness.”

A spokesperson of the White House early on Thursday quoted the US President stating that China's aggression along its disputed boundary with India fit in with the larger pattern of the communist country’s belligerence in other parts of the world and such actions only confirmed the true nature of the Communist Party of China.

India inked a Rs 39000 crore deal to buy S-400 Triumf long-range surface-to-air missile systems from Almaz-Antey Corporation of Russia in October 2018. The US, however, has not yet imposed the CAATSA sanctions on India for the deal with Russia.