India recently signed a 2.43-billion deal with Russia for the acquisition of MiG-29s and Sukhoi Su-30MKIs while overlooking American fighter jets including F-21s that the US claimed was a lethal combination of stealth F-35 and F-22 jets
US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin also said that it will not sell its newly rolled out F-21 fighter jet to any other country if India places an order for 114 planes, an offer aimed to counter other US, European or Russian jets.
Recently, amid escalating border tensions between India and China, New Delhi approved to spend billions to purchase Russian fighter jets. Moscow will sell New Delhi 33 new fighter aircraft including 12 Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s along with up-gradation of 59 MiG-29s.
The MiG 29 procurement and up-gradation from Russia is estimated to cost Rs 7418 cr, the Su-30 MKI will be procured from HAL at an estimated cost of Rs 10,730 cr.
Rahul Bedi a senior journalist and defence analyst write – the piddling issue of the US potentially sanctioning India under CAATSA for acquiring Russian military hardware including fighter jets to meet its urgent needs simply refuses to go away.
In a statement to the UK’s Jane’s Defence Weekly after India declared its intent to procure Russian fighter jets, a senior US State Department official ominously announced that India was not ‘safeguarded’ from penalties under CAATSA.
Bedi quotes the US defence official – We urge all of our allies and partners to forego (defence) deals with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under CAATSA.
He further added that though the US could not “prejudge whether a specific transaction would result in sanctions, it was important to note that CAATSA did not have any blanket or country-specific waiver provision.
There are stringent guidelines for considering a waiver, and each deal is assessed on a case-by-case basis,” Jane’s quoted the US official as saying. US Secretary of State (Mike Pompeo) has not made any judgement regarding the significance of any deal (with Russia) involving India, he added, but did not elaborate.
Bedi writes that the veiled CAATSA threat by the US, targeted at India for purchasing Russian fighter jets seems to be more a commercial bludgeon than a lawful effort to punish a politically intrusive Russia.
Accordingly, it also leads to the clear picture that the CAATSA stems largely from US’ resentment with the Indian government for not acquiring US fighters like Lockheed Martin’s F-21 and instead opting for Russian Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s.
The US has long been craving to sell the customised F-21s to India which was unveiled at Aero India 2019 in Bangalore.
Bedi writes that little more than a re-branded F-16 that dates back to the mid-1970s, it makes great economic sense from the US perspective to ‘sell’ India to licence-build this fighter for the IAF to meet its requirement for an additional 114 combat aircraft to make up for the depleted fighter squadrons.
With F-16s being phased out of the US Air Force, and their plant at Fort Worth in Texas closing down, moving the ageing fighters’ manufacturing unit to India, would keep the line going for few more years, while also providing employment opportunities in the US under Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ drive.
India going with Russia and French fighter jets has exasperated the US and could well be the motive behind its veiled threat of invoking CAATSA against India.