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India-Russia deal on S-400s: “a blow to Biden”

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India sent several dozen soldiers to Russia to train them for handling the S-400 anti-aircraft system it plans to buy. However, this is unlikely to be to the liking of Washington, which sees New Delhi as a key partner in the Indo-Pacific strategy.

According to the sources, a group of 100 officers from India will travel to Russia in January for training to learn the handling of advanced S-400 anti-aircraft systems.

India is expected to receive first Russia’s S-400 mobile surface-to-air missile system between September and October 2021 and they will be operational by the end of this year or early next.

In October 2018, India signed a contract with the Russian corporation Rosoboronexport for the purchase of five S-400 anti-aircraft systems for more than $ 5.4 billion.

India is rushing to reinforce its armed forces, in part due to the protracted dispute with China over a stretch of border that intensified last May.

However, plans to purchase the S-400 anti-aircraft systems caused tensions between India and the United States.

“The sale will certainly be a sore spot in Indo-US relations, especially as Russia is developing military cooperation with India,” as pointed out by Nikkei.

According to the article, India’s purchase of the S-400s threatens to worsen relations with the new US president, Joe Biden. The Trump Administration had repeatedly urged India to reconsider the deal with Russia.

Washington threatened to impose sanctions on India if it did not give up the purchase of advanced Russian defense equipment. New Delhi rejected the American threats and continued with its plans to reinforce its anti-aircraft shield.

Previously, the United States had already imposed sanctions on Turkey for the purchase of the S-400s, which Ankara received in July 2019.

On the one hand, India traditionally buys arms from Russia and on the other hand, it is part, together with the United States, Japan and Australia, of the so-called QUAD alliance.

It cannot be ruled out that India’s purchase of the S-400s will have an impact on Biden’s policy towards the country. 

In particular, the Indian government anticipates that Biden’s attention to human rights will affect US policy toward the country. In 2019 and 2020 large demonstrations broke out in India in response to the controversial citizenship law.

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