Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna has introduced a stand-alone bill in the US House of Representatives that gives India specific waivers from the punitive CAATSA sanctions. CAATSA is a tough US law that authorises the administration to impose sanctions on countries that purchase major defence hardware from Russia in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.
The law was brought in 2017 and provides for punitive actions by the US government against any country engaged in transactions with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
In October 2018, India signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, despite a warning from the then-Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions. The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.
The resolution, which has also been endorsed by Congressman Brad Sherman and David Schweikert along with Khanna, has been sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for necessary action.
While India faces immediate needs to maintain its heavily Russian-built weapons systems, a waiver to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act during this transition period is in the best interests of the United States and the United States-India defense partnership to deter aggressors in light of Russia and China’s close partnership, the resolution said.
A similar language was introduced by Khanna as an amendment to the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) this summer and passed by the House with bipartisan support.
While India has started importing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, US President Joe Biden is yet to take a call on CAATSA waiver sanctions.
Under the existing laws, the president can give a national interest waiver to countries.
Khanna said that this is a strong bill to affirm the US and India defense partnership.
I first introduced this as an amendment to the National Defense Authorisation Act and now I am proud to introduce it as a standalone bill to continue to build momentum and support for it. It is necessary for us to pass this in order to strengthen the relationship between the US and India and deter aggressors like China, Khanna told PTI in an interview.
The resolution asserts that India faces immediate and serious regional border threats from China, with continued military aggression by the Government of China along the India-China border.
Observing that India relies on Russian-built weapons for its national defense, the resolution says that the United States should take additional steps to encourage India to accelerate India’s transition off Russian-built weapons and defense systems while strongly supporting India’s immediate defense needs.
It is the sense of Congress that a strong United States-India defense partnership, rooted in shared democratic values, is critical in order to advance United States interests in the Indo-Pacific region, it said.
This partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies is critical and must continue to be strengthened in response to increasing threats in the Indo-Pacific regions, sending an unequivocal signal that sovereignty and international law must be respected, it added.
According to the resolution, the Congress finds that the United States-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) is a welcome and essential step to developing closer partnerships between governments, academia, and industry in the United States and India to address the latest advances in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, aerospace, and semiconductor manufacturing.
Such collaborations between engineers and computer scientists are vital to help ensure that the United States and India, as well as other democracies around the world, foster innovation and facilitate technological advances which continue to far outpace Russian and Chinese technology, according to the resolution.