Sputnik discussed this with Nitin Gokhale, journalist, author and a national security analyst.
Sputnik: Why has India pursued this purchase despite the US objections and the threat of sanctions?
Nitin Gokhale: There are two very obvious reasons: one of them, the most important one, is that India is very keen to buy the S-400 air defense system from Russia because it needs this system badly, given the critical gaps that are there in its air defense.
Even when the entire world was against India, from Russia weapons platforms have always come at critical times, so that's the second reason. The third is, of course, despite what the US says, India always maintains that it does not recognize sanctions by a third country, it only recognizes UN-mandated sanctions and in any case I think India's (administration) has talked to their counterparts in the US about the critical (nature) and the importance of acquiring this system, so despite the sanctions threat looming large, I think some kind of an arrangement has been already worked out between the people in Washington, the administration in Washington DC and New Delhi.
In fact, the first statement from the US indicates that there will be some kind of compromise done by the US also when it comes to the sanctions against India or Russia. Actually, the US has very well indicated that the sanctions are not meant for allies and friends but are meant for Russian companies.
Sputnik: How could this affect ties between India and the US; they won't be too detrimental?
Nitin Gokhale: It won't be too detrimental, India actually currently is in a very delicate position if you ask me, not just on what India buys from Russia, but also on the Iran issue for instance.
The US and India have divergent views and the US have been threatening to impose sanctions on anybody dealing with Iran too, but India's 3rd largest (source of) imports (is) Iran, the crude oil comes from Iran, so there's also that angle to the US-India relationship and the current state of affairs between the two countries.
But both sides are really talking to each other constantly, they're engaged with each other and I think some kind of compromise or a way forward is being found to avoid blanket sanctions in both of these cases, one (set) regarding buying weapons from Russia and the other (set) about buying oil from Iran.
Sputnik: Let's talk about how significant military cooperation with Russia is for India?
Also strategic platforms have been given by Russia to India, like the nuclear submarine, a nuclear submarine has been leased to India twice by Russia, one is currently in the naval service, and there are other issues about the shared equipment being used, including the joint venture called the BrahMos missile company, which also manufactures the fastest cruise missile in the world, the BrahMos missile. Therefore, there's no denying the importance that Russia has in India's scheme of things.
Sputnik: I believe that there is something mentioned regarding a joint space program or sending an astronaut to space or something?
Nitin Gokhale: Indeed, in fact among the eight memoranda that were signed, there's cooperation on railways, there's cooperation on nuclear energy, there's cooperation on even oil and natural gas, all that has been signed, so the India-Russia relationship is now getting more progress than it was earlier, which was more defense centric, but space has been one of the important fields in which India and Russia are cooperating with each other increasingly.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.