India’s strategic defense pact with Russia could trigger significant blowback, warns US think tank


A top US think tank has called out a warning against India getting Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. The think tank said that this could trigger a blowback and set India-US ties back by a decade.

In its report, Stimson Center has suggested that the US should either apply full waiver or only light and symbolic sanctions.

The US initiates sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act). But it is yet to decide on sanctions against India for its defense deal with Russia. The contract for the state-of-the-art air defense system was signed in 2018.

“CAATSA sanctions will trigger significant Indian political blowback, setting relations back a decade,” suggested Stimson Center in its report titled “Toward a Mature Defense Partnership”. “The United States should either issue India an enduring waiver or apply very light, symbolic sanctions once, with sufficient forewarning and dialogue with Indian leadership to mitigate political repercussions.”

The report was created based on Stimson’s US-India Strategic Dialogue comprising Indian and American experts to offer insights on deepening security and defense cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

The report also presented wide-ranging suggestions to expand Indo-US defense partnership, keeping India’s sensitivities and priorities in mind.

“India remains cautious about conspicuous confrontation with China, expects asymmetric US support, and guards its autonomy and sphere of influence,” the report said.

The report further said that “India does not share the same US urgency over the maritime threat posed by China’s navy, has not made a major grand strategic shift to prioritizing that threat, and remains ambivalent over a deep US-India defense partnership.”

The Stimson Center suggested that a standing Joint US-India Intelligence Assessment Center at INDOPACOM could serve as a mechanism for bilateral analytic exchanges, table-top exercises, and joint intelligence estimates.

The report also noted the relationship between both the countries require clear leadership signals and cabinet-level oversight/advocacy to overcome bureaucratic inertia and advance defense technology cooperation.

India measures the success of its strategic partnership with the US through the lens of technology cooperation and transfers in defense and civilian spheres.

“The Pentagon can revitalize the India-US Defense Technology and Trade Initiative by delivering on a high-visibility cooperation success (beyond an unmanned system prototype),” the report said.

“Hybrid entities like DIU could “go global” to Indian cities via roadshows, overseas offices, and eventually co-investment to solve joint challenges. US agencies should expand R&D institutional partnerships and talent exchange flows that could fill US demands for STEM talent and boost India’s skilled economy.”

“The Pentagon should partner with state and commerce to establish the US-India Strategic Tech Alliance focused on emerging technology recommended by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence,” the report added further.