Putin’s visit to India earlier in October has paved the way for Indo-Russia deal on purchase of advance Air Defence Weapon System, the S400 at the whooping cost of more than 5 billion USDs by India. While Modi may satisfy the teeming millions and hapless poor of India that these missiles were more important than alleviating them from poverty, she has been able to snub President Trump on many accounts.

One India has displayed that it is beyond the US sanction regime and when it comes to her national interest, she can tell the powers that be to take a walk.

Two, India has tried to adopt a policy of multi-alignment and hedging bets by not putting all her eggs in one (American) basket. Despite her bonhomie with US, Trump-Modi photo shoots and her eagerness to play a leading role in Anti-China and Anti-Russia quad in the Indo Pacific, India has very intelligently snubbed the American camp.

Three, India has also tried to play Russian, Chinese and American cards against all three, on one hand she is telling the Americans that these advanced weapon systems are not against America and will be exclusively used against China and may be Pakistan, in the same breath she is pleasing the Russian Federation that Americans can do whatever, as far as her relationship with the Russians is concerned, it is very special. For China, the message is that despite being an active member of the Quad, India is smart enough to annoy the Americans by going on an independent trajectory of her place in Eurasia.

Looking at the response from the US and China, it appears that India has been able to bluff all of them. Saudi Gazette tends to confirm this hypothesis, “India’s decision to purchase the S-400 flies in the face of the United States imposing sanctions on countries buying Russian military hardware, as happened with China last month.US-Russia ties are plumbing depths not seen since the Cold War, plunging further still this week as Western powers accused Moscow of orchestrating a brazen string of global cyber-attacks. However, Washington is in a tricky position with India, seeking to bolster ties with the Asian giant to counter China’s growing assertiveness, something which has also rattled New Delhi”.

Another important aspect of this deal is how the US reacts to it, especially when she imposed sanctions against China for similar deal between Russia and China, the Chinese may argue that US has closed her eyes to Indo-Russia deal and only penalised China because of discrimination and not any principles.

The Indo Russia deal on S 400 missile system has also personally embarrassed President Trump as his praise of India as a strategic partner and a trust worthy ally seems to have lost its narrative. This deal is also being analysed from the point of view of multi-polarity and gradual but sure decline of American Power. America has enjoyed almost unchallenged sway of hyper power in international arena in past three decades, since the breakup of Soviet Union, her ability to shape the strategic environment and pursue her national interests has remained unstoppable; however prolonged engagement in regional wars and domestic economic woes have adversely affected her global stature. Indian ability to disregard American sanction regimen and display of defiance to the sole superpower points to a paradigm shift in international arena, indicating that multi-polarity is coming of age.

In order to understand loss of American face and decline of her power, it may be good to analyse the American sanction regimen called CAASTA as released by US department of Treasury in Jan 2018.

The Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA is a United States federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia. The bill was passed during the 115th Congress, 98–2 in the Senate. On August 2, 2017, President Donald Trump signed it into law. The CAASTA specifically lists Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense Corporation JSC of Russia in the sanctions list, this group is the one which produces state of the art S400 system.

Although the President of the US is empowered to waive of some parts of sanctions, especially if the purchase of military hardware is not of strategic nature, swallowing S400 deal would be like cutting Trump’s own nose.

Another major strategic shift would be response from Pakistan and China, for Pakistan S400 is the second Pokhran, with India gaining a capability of denting Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence. The threat of dent in nuclear deterrence in South Asia cannot be disregarded by Pakistan and a logical response will be bringing down the nuclear threshold to less than a day, this could translate into enhancing Pakistan’s nuclear capability in tactical nukes and going for counter force targets. Has S400 increased the threat of use of nuclear weapons in South Asia, this is a million dollar question and requires a deep and cool analysis by security community of Pakistan and those responsible for maintaining the nuclear deterrence in National Command Authority.

For China, enhancement of Indian military capability cannot go unnoticed, especially when both Asian neighbours have a plethora of border disputes to resolve and maintain peace along 3500 km long Indo China border, the longest un-demarcated border in the world. This may force China and Pakistan to collaborate on developing alternative systems to beat back the threat posed by S400.

While India may have gained enhanced military capability to gain an upper edge vis a vis Pakistan, it cannot address the stability-instability paradox confronting India. The more India gains in conventional weapons, the more it pushes Pakistan towards use of unconventional or nuclear weapons in a highly charged strategic environment, a zero sum game with no winners.


The writer is a freelance journalist