India-US talks: Two nations discuss Indo-Pacific, human rights, CAATSA, China, and much more

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March 21, 2021 3:25 PM

Sources told Financial Express Online that, “Both sides talked about the long term security outlook, as well as the situation in West Asia and Europe.”

Indo -US talks, S JaishankarThe visiting dignitary briefed the Indian side about his visits to Japan and South Korea. (Twitter /@DrSJaishankar)

In a meeting which lasted almost one hour external affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and the US Secretary of Defense Gen Lloyd Austin security challenges in the Indo-Pacific Region, changing global scenarios and other issues of interests were discussed. He is the first top-level member of the Biden administration to travel to India.

Sources told Financial Express Online that, “Both sides talked about the long term security outlook, as well as the situation in West Asia and Europe.”

The visiting dignitary briefed the Indian side about his visits to Japan and South Korea.

Even the peace process in Afghanistan, and the ground situation there and the concerns and interests of the neighbours and regional powers were discussed by both sides.

What were the takeaways?

This was the first visit by one of the top officials in the Biden administration, an indication that India is an important partner for the US.

There has been a steady growth in bilateral cooperation in several domains.

Both sides highlighted the commonalities and convergence, in a relationship which is unique.

The minister talked about the potential of various aspects of the leadership.

Importance of human rights, and values for the two largest democracies.

Both sides agreed that the relationship between the two democracies was important not only for the two countries but for the rest of the world too.

India-US & Russia

The issue of the S-400 ‘Triumf’ missile system from Russia was also discussed during the one hour meeting between Jaishankar and the visiting US Defense secretary.

What is the S-400 issue?

India and Russia in 2016 had inked an agreement on the ‘Triumf’ interceptor-based missile system. This is Russia’s most advanced long-range surface to air missile defence system. It has the capability to destroy drones, missiles, and enemy aircraft up to a range of 400 km.

In 2017, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA was introduced by the Trump administration. This is a US federal law that has been imposed on Iran, North Korea and Russia.

In the case of Russia, it is an act which deals with sanctions on Russian interests including defence and security sector, financial institutions and the oil and gas industry.

Under the CAATSA sanctions, only the US administration has to give a waiver to India on the military platforms deals with Russia.

What has been India’s stand?

As has been reported earlier, India’s consistent stand has been that the process for acquisition of the USD 5 billion S-400 system began much before the CAATSA was introduced. At that time the then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had stated that CAATSA was not UN law but an American law.

US Defense Secretary interacted with limited media

In a limited press interaction, the visiting dignitary in response to a question said, “The issue of S-400 was raised. The issue of sanctions was not discussed. And, we urge all our allies and partners to move away from Russian equipment. And, to avoid any kind of acquisitions that will trigger sanctions on our behalf.” he said.

The issue was discussed during the meeting with the Defense Minister Rajnath Singh too.

The deal which inked in 2018 got delayed as both sides were working out the modalities for the payment.

To a specific question on sanctions against India under CAATSA, the US Defense Secretary responded by saying, “Since India has not received the delivery of an S-400; there are no reasons for sanctions on the table.”

Sources confirmed to Financial Express Online, “During the meetings the US side was told that the Indian armed forces have been using the Russian platforms for years. Almost 60-70 per cent of the military platforms in the services are from Russia and gradually India has been diversifying its acquisition of platforms.”

India-US Human Rights

He explained to the accompanying as well select Indian media that President Joe Biden had said that human rights and rule of law is important to the US.

The issue about Human rights was raised during his meeting with other members of the Indian Cabinet, he told the media. “We have to remember India is our partner, a partner whose partnership we value.” And, “Partners need to be able to have that kind of discussion. We feel comfortable doing it and we can have those discussions in a meaningful way.”

He had meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and had a close to two hour meeting on the evening of Friday March 19, 2021 with NSA Ajit Doval.

On the India-China stand-off, according to him the right way of countering such aggression was to work with like minded partners.

During his meetings with Rajnath Singh, the pending defense deals, more military drills, space cooperation, sharing of information, AI and much more was discussed.

Next visit

According to sources, dates are being worked out for the visit of the US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

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