The US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was told to convey US’s opposition to India’s S-400 missile defence system purchase ahead of his meeting with Indian leaders on Friday. Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged Austin to talk to Indian leaders about the issue of India’s procurement of Russian S-400 Missile Defence System. The US Defence Secretary Lloyd is scheduled to meet the NSA chief Ajit Doval, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar among other national leaders.
Delhi: US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin III arrives in India on a three-day visit. He will meet Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during his visit. pic.twitter.com/GM18ArIMJC
— ANI (@ANI) March 19, 2021
The issue of S-400 Defence System can be traced back to 2018 when India struck a $5 billion deal with Russia to buy 5 S-400 Air Defence Missile Systems, despite being given a warning by the Trump administration that going ahead with the deal may invite US sanctions.
Now, ahead of meeting, Senator Menendez wrote to the Defence Secretary a letter saying, “If India chooses to go forward with its purchase of the S-400, that act will clearly constitute a significant, and therefore sanctionable, transaction with the Russian defense sector under Section 231 of CAATSA.”
“It will also limit India’s ability to work with the US on development and procurement of sensitive military technology. I expect you to make all of these challenges clear in conversations with your Indian counterparts,” he wrote.
It should be noted that this is US Defence Sec’s first abroad visit after the Quad Leaders’ summit. It’s also the first major visit to India by a senior representative of the Biden administration. The meeting is aimed to discuss a plan of action against China which is a “pacing threat” as labelled by Defence Sec Austin.
“China presents the most significant threat going forward because China is ascending. Our goal is to make sure that we have the capabilities and the operational plans and concepts to be able to offer credible deterrence to China or anybody else who wants to take on the US,” Lloyd had said to US Senators.
Austin’s meeting with Indian leaders interestingly clashes with another meeting between Biden’s administration officials and China President Xi Jinping in Alaska. While USA is determined to put its foot down on several concerns such as human rights in Tibet, Taiwan and western Xinjiang region, Xi Jinping’s administration will put forward the issues that they believe Biden administration should not intervene on.
The China’s consistent failure to stay true to its word and its authoritarian behaviour will be an issue which will be discussed by Austin and Indian leaders. Austin will also be calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi after 6 pm today evening to discuss about bilateral defence and further the QUAD.
The 12th Central Command Chief, Secretary Lloyd Austin is well equipped to handle situations regarding global security such as radicalization, terrorism. He served in the United States military when Iraq and Syria posed a threat to their country and also served as the CENTCOM commander in the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be formally hosting Austin tomorrow. According to reports, the Indian side will brief the visiting Defence Sec about its on-going stand-off with China in the Eastern Ladakh region where the PLA is yet to disengage from certain areas. The United States has always had a clear stance on PLA’s aggression. In the QUAD Leader’s summit, the friction between India and China was discussed briefly and the leaders agreed to have an in-person meeting later this year.
It should be noted that USA and India are not expected to sign any treaties or agreements during the Secretary’s visit. The two countries are scheduled to hold meets where they could create a concrete plan as to how they can deepen defence corporation and intelligence sharing in the Indo-Pacific region. India and US have a strong defence tech corporation with USA agreeing to offer high-end defence tech to India. In the meeting, the US Defence Secretary could discuss USA giving aircraft engines, drones, multi-utility helicopters and more. Recently it was reported that India will be buying 3Predator drones from a US-based company for $3 billion.