President Vladimir Putin will travel to India today for a two-day summit, where he and his counterpart Narendra Modi are expected to sign a $6.2 billion deal to supply the Indian military with an advanced S-400 air-defence system.
Despite disquiet from the US Pentagon, which has warned the existing US sanctions on Russia will automatically apply to India with an S-400 sale, New Delhi has pressed ahead with the deal. A major motivation was to allay fears that Pakistan would order the missiles if India withdrew. Russia lifted a long-standing arms embargo on Pakistan in 2014 and has pursued closer defence with India’s historic rival since. However, Moscow has been careful not to antagonise its long-time ally India, with only low-level weaponry sales and cooperation with Pakistan so far.
Today’s signing is a major deal for Russia, as India is only the third foreign buyer of the S-400. However, potential US sanctions highlights India’s difficult balancing act as President Trump’s administration continues to pursue unprecedented levels of engagement with India. On this occasion, the potential threat of increased Pakistani-Russia relations forced India’s hand with the S-400. If India starts purchasing more US military equipment at Russia’s expense, expect Moscow to use Islamabad as leverage against New Delhi.
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John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.