S-400 deal with Russia to complicate India-US interoperability: Congressman

The chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee, William Thornberry, on Monday flagged concerns about the proposed sale of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems to India saying it would complicate interoperability between Indian and American forces.

His comments come at a time when India and Russia are hoping to hammer out the Rs 39,000-crore deal in October when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vlamidir Putin meet in New Delhi for the annual summit between the two countries.

India and Russia are exploring ways to bypass American sanctions through an alternative payment route, officials familiar with the negotiations said.

“There’s lot of concern in the US administration and the Congress with the S-400 system. And there is concern that any country, and not just India, that is looking at acquiring the system…it will make interoperability harder,” said Thornberry, who was here on Monday with three members of the committee.

He said new US legislation would inject flexibility for countries dependent on Russian equipment, but America’s concerns about the S-400 sale were “completely separate from any sanctions or legislation.”

The US passed the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act earlier this year.

The Indian Air Force wants to induct the missile systems to shore up defences in the northern and western sectors.

Russia, the country’s top arms supplier, accounted for 62% of India’s arms imports during 2013–17, according to report released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in March.