Ex-diplomat on US sanctions waiver: Important step in India’s purchase Russian weaponry


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The US House of Representatives approved Thursday an amendment to allow India to waive the CAATSA punitive sanctions. This is a significant step in New Delhi’s purchase Russian weaponry, India’s former ambassador to USA Navtej Sarna said about the development.

In an exclusive interview with India Today TV, Navtej Sarna said, “It’s an important step on the way to an ultimate waiver for India’s purchase of Russian weaponry.”

However, the ex-diplomat added that it wasn’t the final waiver.

Thursday’s voice vote by the US House of Representatives saw a legislative amend to the National Defence Authorisation Act. This amendment opens the door to an India-specific waiver of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act(CAATSA) sanctions. This is a harsh law that allows the US government sanctions against any country that purchases major Russian defense hardware.

CAATSA was a sticking point in India-US ties following a deal between New Delhi and Russia to obtain the S-400 anti-missile defense system. In light of Russia’s invasion, the US was considering whether to remove or increase CAATSA sanctions from India.

What is CAATSA?

Navtej Sarna explained that the CAATSA was essentially enacted in order to impose sanctions upon any country having important strategic or defense engagements with Russia Iran North Korea. He said, “It was essentially meant stop that kind of engagement.”

Sarna claimed that 2018 saw the addition of a waiver clause to the CAATSA, but it wasn’t an India-specific waiver.

It was not a waiver for India. The (US) administration had the option of granting a waiver if they felt the relationship was strategic for the United States. Sarna explained that the sanctions country was trying to shift away from Russian weaponry as well as a few other caveats.

Sarna stated that the Indian-origin Congressman Ro Kanna’s new amendment adds to the process and creates a case specific to India. This will allow the US to grant a waiver to CAATSA.

“I think it’s important because it underlines the importance of India-US strategic partnership. It is so important that we can’t harm our own interests just to spite Russia,” Sarna said.

“The second is that the United States of America and India are united against China. If you see Congressman Ro Khanna’s amendment, it specifically mentions that in the Indo-Pacific, the India-US partnership is of great strategic importance,” Sarna added.


Sarna said that the amendment highlights the US government’s acknowledgement that India is facing “Chinese aggression on its borders and it’s important for the United States to support India’s defence”.

“It also highlights that India and the US cooperate in crucial and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence or other cutting-edge technologies. It shows that you can’t be cooperating with the country to that extent in these crucial days when the Chinese are clearly becoming very aggressive both towards India and to the rest of the world. And given the Russia-China partnership, it’s in the United States’ interest to grant India this waiver,” Sarna said.


Sarna stated that the passage of the amendment to NDAA should not be considered a discrete event. Sarna stated that India and the US have had a strong defense relationship over the past 10-12 years, and New Delhi has been a major partner in Washington’s defense.

In the 2018 CAATSA amendment, Sarna stated that it was one of the criteria for a waiver. This would be to determine if a country is trying to reduce its defense engagement with Russia. Sarna stated that India has reduced its dependence on Russia in terms of weaponry over the years, which is in line with the waiver probation requirements under CAATSA.

The United States desires this requirement. It would be interesting if they could grant a waiver to the other country if it was expanding its relations with Russia. India is also diversifying its dependence from 70 to 60 percent, increasing its weapons purchases and buying more Russian weaponry. Sarna stated that this was in accordance with the requirements of waiver probation.



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