India will push ahead with its deal to buy the S-400 air defence systems from Russia despite opposition from the US, defence ministry officials said on condition of anonymity.
According to them, the defence ministry will approach the apex Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval to purchase five units of Russian S-400 air defence systems.
They added that the ministry has received no instructions as of now to stall the contract in the wake of the US red-flagging the $5.5 billion deal.
The Trump administration has warned India of the consequences of this purchase from Russia and said it could curtail military cooperation with the United States.
The officials said the CCS headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take the final decision now that both the countries have completed negotiations to close the deal.
The defence ministry’s view is that Russia, which has already sold the system to China, could also sell it to Pakistan, perhaps through China, if India reneges on the deal at this stage.
In the past decade, Russian RD-93 engines were supplied to Pakistan through the China route for JF-17 fighters despite objections in writing from India.
While India has taken note of objections raised by William Thornberry, the powerful Chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee and the ambit of the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CATSA), it is open to sharing each other’s security concerns.
The purchase of S-400 system will be up for discussion at the two-plus-two dialogue between Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman with their US counterparts secretary of state Mike Pompeo and secretary of defense Jim Mattis on July 6 at Washington. It is learnt that at the two-plus-two dialogue the two sides will flag security concerns over the contract and how to best come out of a sticky situation without any ramification on the close bilateral ties.
The officials said that New Delhi has already used back channels to explain India’s concerns and the need for a strong air defence system given the neighbourhood. The Indian Air Force (IAF), given the advance aerial capabilities of China and Pakistan, needs the S-400 to protect its air bases.
Prime Minister Modi’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval ia believed to have made made quiet calls to both the White House and the Kremlin to convince both the countries that India is too big a nation to belong to any camp and that it takes all decisions in its own national interest.