The U.S. has pressured Turkey and India to withdraw from their decisions to purchase the long-range S-400 air missile defense system from Russia.
All eyes are now on the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan scheduled on June 28-29, where both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines.
The U.S. has warned both countries that there will be serious implications on their defense and trade ties.
Modi, who began his second tenure on May 30, is grappling to deal with the Trump administration. Despite pursuing a U.S. friendly foreign policy, Trump has mounted pressure on India on multiple tracks -- trade, oil and defense.
Like Turkey, the Trump administration has offered the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet for India’s air force and navy, if it scraps the $5.43 billion deal with Russia.
India had signed the deal with Russia last year in October 2018, after wide-ranging talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Modi. The deliveries will commence from October 2020 and will be completed by April 2023.
According to an Indian government official, only partial payments have been made by New Delhi given banking sanctions that are already in place for dealing with Russian defense entities.
Officials in New Delhi still believe that the American pursuit of a new Indo-Pacific policy to counter China will allow the Trump administration to consider a waiver.
The S-400 is known as the most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defense system. China was the first to procure this missile defense system to shield its cities from an invading missile.
- Common challenge
Both countries are in touch to work together to counter the common challenges like the U.S. decision to end exemptions to sanctions on Iranian oil imports.
Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish presidential spokesman, who was in New Delhi last month held talks with India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale. He said Turkey and India find themselves on the “same page” on several pressing issues, including U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil imports and Russian military equipment, and the American plan to end the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for preferential duty-free imports.
Newly appointed External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Sunday held his first telephonic conversation with Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu,
"Had a warm conversation with Foreign Minister of Turkey @MevlutCavusoglu that helped us build a personal and professional bond. Thank you for your good wishes. Look forward to closely working with you,” he tweeted.
US threatens India, Turkey
Last week, a senior State Department Official told a group of Indian reporters in Washington that New Delhi's decision to buy Russian system was not an ordinary deal and will affect India’s increasing military cooperation with the U.S.
“The S-400 is significant because of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act [CAATSA] sanctions. It is also significant because of what it precludes, in terms of future high-tech cooperation," Indian news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) reported, quoting the official.
He warned that the deal could result in U.S. sanctions under the CAATSA, instituted by the U.S. Congress on arms purchases from Russia.
"You can look at the very serious conversation that's taking place with our NATO partner Turkey and the same concerns will apply, should India proceed with an S-400 purchase," the official said.
The U.S apprehends that the radar system associated with the S-400 would provide Russia sensitive information about the F-35 -- fifth-generation U.S military aircraft.
“We do not mix highest technology systems. There are threats posed by the purchase of an S-400. So that conversation you are seeing played out in Turkey right now," the official said, asserting that those same concerns would apply to India as well.
The Pentagon said it would end Turkish participation in management and manufacturing activities related to the F-35 program. Turkish companies are said to currently produce almost 1,000 parts for the F-35, including landing gear and fuselage components.
"While we seek to maintain our valued relationship, Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400," Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a letter to his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar.
- India watching US moves on Turkey
Senior Indian government officials, who wished not to be named, told Anadolu Agency that they are closely watching developments with regard to Turkey. The Trump administration has sent its Assistant Secretary of State for politico-military affairs R Clarke Cooper to New Delhi to make the case against the S-400.
The U.S. politico-military bureau in a fact sheet said Washington had offered India, the first non-treaty partner, a MTCR Category-1 Unmanned Aerial System (Drone) -- the Sea Guardian UAS manufactured by General Atomics.
It said the administration also "continues to support advocacy for the Lockheed Martin F-21 and Boeing F/A-18 -- two state of the art fighter aircraft to augment the Indian Air Force.
Brahma Chellaney, strategic thinker at the New Delhi-based premier think-tank Centre for Policy Research, said it was not a coincidence that on the first day of Modi’s second term, Trump announced the termination of India’s preferential access to the U.S. market.
In order to keep the U.S. in good mood and avoid sanctions, India had begun the process of purchasing the American NASAMS II (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) worth $1 billion, ahead of signing the deal for the purchase of S-400 with Russia.
The Defense Acquisition Council had approved the acquisition in July 2018. But apparently this deft diplomatic stroke has not gone down well in Washington.
The U.S had also offered India, to supply its advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advance Capability (PAC-3) defense systems, to wean it away from purchasing the S-400 system.
But Indian officials said the American system is coming at a higher price than the Russian S-400 system. They, however, maintain that in the days of cyber and electronic warfare, they would need both NASAMS-II and S-400 with different encryption systems, to counter emerging threats.
- India proposes to acquire two systems
Noted defense expert Pravin Sawhney agreed with the view. He argued that using the expensive S-400 against an incoming aircraft or an unmanned object like drone was not a good idea, as it was meant to protect against ballistic missiles.
“The S-400 is best used to protect major cities and high-value targets against ballistic missiles, which leave the atmosphere and then re-enter to high target,” he said.
The NASAMS, on the other hand, has limited range designed to kill offensive aircraft and other aerial vehicles including low flying cruise missiles. “India had been planning to employ the S-400 for offensive air defense and the NASAM for defensive air defense,” said Sawhney.
Experts believe while the S-400 was aimed to provide protection from Chinese missiles, the American NASAMS would prevent intrusion of any offensive aircraft from Pakistan.
Operationally, each S-400 regiment comprises two batteries with four launchers each; this makes a total of 40 launchers for five regiments. The S-400 can fire four different missiles: the long-range 40N6 missile with a range of 400 kilometers (249 miles); the long-range 48N6 missile with a range of 250 kilometers (155 miles); the medium range 9M96E2 with a range of 120 kilometers (75 miles); and the short-range 9M96E with a range of 40 kilometers.
The 40N6 is to counter Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACA), while the 48N6 is designed to destroy all air objects including airplanes, helicopters, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles up to the speed of 4,800 meters per second.
Five regiments of S-400 are aimed to protect two to three major Indian cities including the capital city of New Delhi.
According to India’s plans, the NASAMS was to be deployed on border areas to protect sensitive military installations to counter air skirmishes, similar to dogfights that took place on February 27 between the fighter jets of India and Pakistan, leading to shooting down of India’s MiG-21 Bison and arrest of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
In the milieu, India also mistakenly shot down its own Mi-17 helicopter, killing two pilots and four personnel.
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