No decision yet on CAATSA: Blinken’s top aide says US focused on future with India

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From left, PM Yoshihide Suga of Japan, PM Narendra Modi, President Biden, and Australian PM Scott Morrison pose for a photo before the Quad meeting Sept. 24, 2021. Photo Twitter PMOIndia

Washington (ANI): The United States hasn’t made a final decision on sanctions on India for its acquisition of the S-400 missile system from Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a top official from Biden’s administration said indicating that Washington is focused on the “future” with New Delhi.

Speaking to ANI, Derek Chollet, top advisor of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, April 21, 2022, said, “I share the view of my boss Secretary Blinken, that we have not made a decision on that (CAATSA). We are focused on the future with the Indians.”

On India’s determination to purchase the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, Blinken during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue earlier this month said: “We have not made determination potential sanctions or waivers under CAATSA law.”

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During the high level diplomatic and defense dialogue between India and the United States, Blinken reiterated that he had urged all nations not to undertake weapons delivery from Russia.

Acknowledging that India and Russia have a “long history and long relationship” in defense equipment trade, Chollet highlighted that the last two decades and especially the last one year of the Biden administration has demonstrated the full potential of the U.S.-India relationship. The diplomat said that it’s important to note that the relationship between the two democracies is also the result of a bipartisan effort.

“Presidents of both parties (Democrats and Republicans) going back over two decades now, have built on the accomplishments of the other to make the U.S.-India relationship what it is today the work we’re doing,” Chollet told ANI.

The U.S. administration is required under its domestic law to impose sanctions on any country that has significant transactions with Iran, North Korea or Russia.

India had inked the $5.43 billion deal with Russia for five squadrons of S-400s in October 2018. The deliveries accelerated ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India and summit meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sources familiar with the matter appear reasonably confident of a waiver to India from the Biden administration because of the improved strategic relations between the two countries.

“Not just bilaterally but in the Quad, is a showcase of strong India-U.S. ties, and when the Quad leaders meet in the coming weeks for the second time in person, it will once again show the full potential of what the U.S. India relationship can bring to both of our countries. We think it brings benefits to both countries. And I think ultimately the U.S. India working together is going to make the world better,” Chollet said.

President Joe Biden during a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he is planning to visit Japan in late May for a “Quad” summit also involving the leaders of Australia and India, a meeting that is likely to showcase a deepening of ties between the four major Indo-Pacific democracies that are facing China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
When asked on the framework of the upcoming Quad summit and how the U.S. plans to partner with India, Chollet said, “I think first it’s important to note how fast the Quad has grown into what it is today and it’s just a year ago.”

Quad leaders met virtually for the first time last year and Tokyo will be hosting a second in-person summit. “There’s a robust agenda for the upcoming summit as there has been for the previous ones. There’s no shortage of issues for the leaders to discuss as we expect that when the leaders have a chance to get together soon. It will be a successful summit,” Chollet told ANI.

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