Against the backdrop of possible US sanctions on the $5.4 billion deal with Russia for S-400 air defence systems, India on Friday said it has an independent foreign policy that guides defence acquisitions in line with national security interests.
Recent reports have suggested the US could impose secondary sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The Russian side has said the deal for five S-400 systems is progressing according to schedule despite the threat of possible sanctions.
“India and the US have a comprehensive global strategic partnership. India has a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a weekly news briefing.
“India has always pursued an independent foreign policy. This also applies to our defence acquisitions and supplies which are guided by our national security interests,” he said in response to a question on the S-400 deal.
Outgoing US envoy Kenneth Juster said this week that sanctions under CAATSA weren’t aimed against friends of the US, though India might soon need to make hard decisions regarding the acquisition of military hardware.
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India has sought to keep its options open on arms purchases and the country’s leadership has signalled its intent to continue with the acquisition of military hardware from Russia, which accounts for more than 60 per cent of the weapons systems of the three services.
Responding to another question on the US administration’s plans to modify the selection process for H-1B visas by giving priority to salary and skills instead of the current lottery, Srivastava said India is in communication with the American side to ensure “increased predictability” in the visa regime.
Almost 70 per cent of the 65,000 H-1B visas issued by the US each year go to Indian nationals.
“We are engaged with the US government for increased predictability in the visa regime and to minimise inconvenience to Indian nationals in the US or those proposing to travel to the US for bonafide reasons, including the movement of Indian professionals,” Srivastava said.
India has also noted the US government’s recent proclamations extending by three months the suspension of entry of certain immigrants and non-immigrants, he said.
“People-to-people relations are a vital part of the partnership between India and the US. There is recognition in the US of the fact that Indian skilled professionals have contributed to the growth of the US economy and helped the US retain its competitive edge and innovation advantage,” he added.