A Case for CAATSA Waiver

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The balance of power is in a vague state today. The bipolar world with two competing forces, one United States and the other USSR, isn’t as prominent a theme in the 21st century as it was during the long period following the end of 2nd world war till the 1990s. Debates and articles in leading publications now focus more on the US-China clash and its geopolitical and economic fallouts than on the previously preferred topic concerning the US-USSR rivalry. China is increasingly making inroads in every possible part of the world through its ambitious Silk Road project, corporate investments and mining ventures, and that the Chinese debt is crippling countries from Sri Lanka to Pakistan, Maldives to Montenegro, is a widely acknowledged fact.

In this scenario, India has signed a multi-billion dollar defence deal that involves purchase of S-400 missile defence system from its long-standing ally, Russia. India’s outlay on defence equipment is justifiable given the potent threats from two of its neighbors- China and Pakistan. India has fought multiple wars with Pakistan, the country that housed Bin Laden and also trains militants on its soil to upset India’s national security calculus. With China, India has fought a war and skirmishes on Indo-Chinese border have made many headlines in the recent past. All the three Asian countries hold nuclear weapons and it is in the best interest of all, even for those located beyond the continent, that the deterrence model (by way of procuring more sophisticated arms to match and surpass opponent’s arsenal symmetrically or asymmetrically) keeps them from any sort of misadventures and engaging in a full-blown war.

Prominent national security experts have exposed the fanciful notion that Indian armed forces are fully equipped to sustain and retaliate strongly in an event of war. In this light, and after China having already purchased the S-400 system from Russia, it appears rational that India had to take a concrete step to upgrade its defence capabilities. The partnership between the two countries is mutually rewarding since Russia has traditionally provided India with defence equipment and the multiple-sanction that hit Russian economy has found a regular revenue stream. Both are sovereign countries and the partnership between them must be viewed with the lens of any country’s right to protect its borders and protect its economy.

As per various reports in the media, the India-Russia deal has not gone well with the United States and can result in sanctions backed by the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Soon after the deal was concluded during the Modi-Putin Summit held in New Delhi, it is rumoured that crucial Trump-administration officials were hopeful that the President would use his executive powers under the Act to provide for a waiver from sanctions to India. But in a late turnaround, the President is quoted as saying ‘India will find out’. Although this does not necessarily mean that the US is preparing for a punitive measure against India, but given the straight-talking attitude of President Trump, denial of sanctions to India cannot be wholly ruled out. But will these sanctions be a wise policy action?

First, India, for long, has opted to remain out of the bipolar balance of power struggles by not exclusively aligning with any of the powers. India is the only Asian nation that could one day, potentially, stand upto the might of China, which poses threat to the world at large by illicitly claiming the South China Sea and building military bases in as far as Africa. Under the astute leadership of President Trump, the United States has itself emphasised ‘Indo-Pacific’ strategy as a substitute to Asia-Pacific. Joint military exercises by India and US and recent agreements on sharing of intelligence and use of ports have further strengthened the bilateral relationship.

Second, the economy of the United States has repeatedly set records under Trump with such economic indicators as employment generation impressing even his staunch critics. Parallelly, President Trump has waged a trade war against China by imposing unprecedented tariffs on imported goods. The US has also abandoned the Iran nuclear deal; however, other signatories to the pact are trying to save the deal as much as they can in their capacities, though their commitment to Iran is suspect, starting with France. The US sanctions on Iran that will kick in from November 4 this year will see crude importers finding it tough and expensive to keep up with the oil needs of their respective economies.

Given of such a state, one could argue that President Trump would welcome allies that can both check the rising Chinese aspirations as well as continue to back the US on global and multilateral platforms, it will be a prudent decision by Trump to allow India a temporary waiver from CAATSA. The leader – who knows precisely when to arm-twist and when to use soft power (North Korea, a rogue nation, has finally agreed to open its nuclear sites to scrutiny and gradually give up nuclear weapons) – is expected to think rationally and let the Indo-US relationship thrive. Enabling India to fortify its defence capabilities is indeed in the best interests of the US, and the icing on the cake is that India isn’t eating up any US resources (like the NATO members) in its pursuit.

(The article “A Case for CAATSA Waiver” is published on page no. 46 & 47 in ‘Organiser’ dated 28th October 2018)

86 thoughts on “A Case for CAATSA Waiver

  1. Gagandeep sexna

    With how many countries will Trump wage war? He is already against China, Russia and even UK which was their oldest ally in Europe. He cannot afford to have enemity with India to survive in Asia.

    Reply
  2. Puneet Varma

    US is becoming increasingly isolated. One because of its tariffs on Chinese goods and second because of pulling out of Iran nuclear pact. India can be US ally in global scene if given waiver for S-400.

    Reply
  3. Apoorva Jaiswal

    To deal a blow to China, Trump must not only wage a trade war but also go hand in hand with India to confront China in Asia. Allowing India CAATSA waiver must be seen in this light.

    Reply
  4. Prakash khera

    Both India and USA have same agenda of countering militancy and terrorism. Even if India is buying new defence equipment it is in the interest of USA as they are now strategic defence partners.

    Reply
  5. Deeepak Kant

    Reluctantly, US has accepted that Saudi Arabia is complicit in the murder of journalist Khashoggi. US needs all weather allies in Asia and India is the best country which is stable.

    Reply
  6. Nakul Sharma

    President Trump has praised Narendra Modi on a number of occasions. In view of this, they share a good personal rapport and it will not be allowed to be harmed by sanctions over arms purchase.

    Reply
  7. Karan jain

    China fears no other country or multilateral organisation. They have said that they will not cede any territory including South China Sea. They are a dominating force in the world.

    Reply
  8. Girish Redekar

    Trump has recently said that he will withdraw from the nuclear disarmament treaty between Russia and USA citing reason that Russia and China are building their stockpile. So he needs a friend like India.

    Reply
  9. akshay tarfe

    We all know that US has turned into a protectionist state under Trump with many old stances now no longer in existence. What President will do to India over purchase of arms from Russia is unknown.

    Reply
  10. Isha Dubey

    It is not that the United States or Donald trump do not know the importance of India in the Asia-Pacific region. They are strategic partners and US will not take any unilateral action against India.

    Reply
  11. Giles Raymond DeMourot

    Everyone in Asia will ask for a CAATSA waiver, be it for arms purchases form Russia or oil from Iran. The international legality of unilateral secondary sanctions is to say the least dubious.

    Reply
  12. Rahul

    It’s all about the bilateral relations behind the curtain not only media rise such issues but trade war didn’t effect US economy but china supporting those countries which are imposed by US president . US support India to abandoned the china trade.

    Reply
  13. Prasanth Reghuvaram

    If we are not logically wipe out some disturbances between , that disturbances will wipe out us one day.

    Reply
  14. Dr. Rohan Ninan

    India has always had a active relationship with russia from the time of indraghandi.we turned our backs on them when they split. Us cannot rely on them.they have destroyed many poor asian countries in the name of terror.next is going to b pakistan.im not sure when our chance will come.

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