US warns of CAATSA sanctions despite Jaishankar’s assurance he can persuade them

On a day when External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had said that he was “reasonably convinced” of persuading the U.S. to accept India’s decision on the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system, U.S. officials warned that any such purchases may risk sanctions.

“We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hindu via email hours after Mr Jaishankar’s comments on Tuesday.

India agreed to purchase the surface-to-air missile system from Russia in 2018 for about $5.2 billion, risking sanctions under the 2017 U.S. CAATSA law. Sanctions could kick in when the first payment for the equipment is made, unless the U.S. President grants a waiver. U.S. government officials have repeatedly said, in the Indian context, that countries should not assume that waivers are automatic.

Mr. Jaishankar, who is on a visit to Washington, following the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA high-level week in New York, has held or will hold meetings with U.S. government officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The State Department however said that Mr Pompeo had not made any decisions regarding India’s transactions when asked about possible CAATSA sanctions.

“The Secretary has not made any determination regarding the significance of any transaction involving India. We cannot prejudge whether a specific transaction would result in sanctions,” a spokesperson told The Hindu.

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