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US wants India to buy F16s to offset Russia arms sanctions: paper

Updated October 21, 2018

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A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flies a mission in the skies near Iraq. ─ Wikimedia Commons
A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flies a mission in the skies near Iraq. ─ Wikimedia Commons

NEW DELHI: The United States is pressing India to buy its F-16 fighter planes for a waiver on sanctions that would apply to New Delhi’s purchase of S-400 missile system from Moscow, local reports said on Saturday.

“With India signing a pact with Russia to purchase the S-400 missile defence system, Washington has informally conveyed to Delhi that it could avoid sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) if India were to give an assurance that it would buy the F-16 fighter aircraft from the United States,” The Indian Express said.

Other newspapers reported a similar discussion, which took placed bet­ween Indian Defence Minister Nir­m­a­­la Sith­araman and her US counterpart James Mattis in Singapore on Friday.

The reports said India is not keen on buying an aircraft already in service with Pakistan, and has refused to give any such assurance till date.

Ms Sitharaman is scheduled to make her first bilateral visit to the US as Defence Minister in mid-December “but it is not clear if Mattis would still be a part of the Trump administration then,” The Express said.

He has been a vocal supporter of a CAATSA waiver for India, forcefully arguing for a waiver before the US Congress. But the three-step waiver process is to be decided by President Trump, who said last week that India “is going to find out” the answer “sooner than you think”.

According to local reports quoting US State Department officials there were “no blanket waivers that will be issued for any one country.”

And any waiver under CAATSA would require, among other things, countries to significantly reduce their reliance on Russian arms”.

Sanctions under CAATSA would be triggered once Delhi makes a payment for the Russian equipment. India likely to make a part payment of the $4.5-billion deal with Russia this financial year, reports said.

Published in Dawn, October 21st , 2018