U.S. lawmakers meet Narendra Modi ahead of S400 delivery with the U.S. congressional delegation

New Delhi: Ahead of the expected year-end delivery of the sophisticated Russian S400 surface-to-air missile defence system, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with a high-power U.S. Congressional delegation here on Saturday.

The Russian missile system will increase India’s chances of coming under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) but official statements issued after Saturday’s meeting avoided mention of the matter. A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the delegation led by Senator John Cornyn discussed issues related to the developments in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.

“Prime Minister appreciated the consistent support of the U.S. Congress in deepening the India-U.S. strategic partnership ,” stated a press release that was issued by the MEA after the meeting.

Following the meeting Senator Cornyn, who is the co-founder and co-Chair of the Senate caucus on India and Indian-Americans, said that both sides discussed “pandemic and supply chain stability.” The meeting with Mr Modi took place a day after External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar hosted the delegation and discussed Afghanistan. Though official statements on both occasions chose to avoid mention of the Russian missile system, three Republican Senators have already moved a bill to exempt India from possible CAATSA sanctions for taking the delivery of the S400 missile system.

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is an American legislation that is aimed at limiting military and security cooperation with Russia, Iran and North Korea. Though CAATSA was earlier imposed on Turkey after Ankara purchased S400 from Moscow, a similar outcome in case of India is not yet certain as the bill moved by Republican Senator Ted Cruz and others have called for giving India exemption for a decade from the sanctions as India is member of the four-power “Quad” initiative that also includes Australia, Japan and the United States.

The Russian missile system, crucial for India’s defence capabilities is expected to dominate headlines during the annual India-Russia summit that is likely to take place in December. The United States however has not yet indicated that India would be exempted in case Russia delivers the long-range missile defence system to New Delhi. Last month, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman had warned about a hard decision in case India takes possession of the S400 missile defence system. Ms Sherman referred to the S400 as “dangerous” indicating that the decision to impose sanctions under CAATSA would be taken by US President Joe Biden.

The visiting Congressional delegation however conveyed a positive outlook of India-U.S. relationship.

“Prime Minister and the visiting delegation noted the increasing convergence of strategic interests between the two strategic partners and expressed desire to further enhance cooperation with an aim to promote global peace and stability,” MEA said