The official indicated sanctions could be imposed in increments as the delivery of S-400 air missile defence systems will take some time.
"India's decision to purchase S-400 systems and its new plans for additional defence equipment purchases from Moscow are of serious concern…India is now being considered for sanctions under the CAATSA legislation," a top American official told The Print news website while sharing that Washington DC is "extremely frustrated and unhappy" with India over its multi-billion-dollar defence purchases from Russia since October 2018.
Nevertheless, the Trump administration indicated it would consider relief for India only if the US received mega-billion defence contracts from New Delhi.
"The only salvation would be if India placed orders for US advanced stealth fighters," the official added.
Resolute India Moves Ahead
The report came on the backdrop of India's decision to acquire S-400 air missile defence systems from Russia despite the threat of US penalties.
Resolute to go ahead with the strategically important $5.43 billion deal, the Indian Defence Ministry on 17 July announced the delivery of five S-400 Triumf units will be completed by 2023. Skirting off the sanctions threat, India and Russia have already found a solution to process payments while averting US sanctions.
The Government of India on several occasions conveyed to the US, its stance on the decision making process regarding arms purchases , reiterating their position during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to New Delhi in June stating that [India will take] "sovereign decisions based on threat perception, operational and technological aspects to keep the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, and to meet the entire spectrum of security challenges".
US Concerns: Russia Racing Too Far Ahead
In the last decade, the US remained India's top defence supplier by bagging deals worth over $12 billion, which included a $4.7 billion transaction for C-17 transport aircraft. India signed a series of defence contracts with Russia since October 2018, when New Delhi approved a $5.43 billion deal for the purchase of S-400 air missile defence systems.
In March this year, India and Russia signed a lease agreement for an Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine worth over $3 billion. The two countries have also inked defence deals worth over $7 billion, including short-range air defence systems, air to air missile systems, Talwar class frigates, and assault rifles Ak-203.
India has asked Russia to modernise its fleet of Sukhoi or Su-30MKI, supermaneuverable, multirole fighter jets. It commenced formal negotiations with Russia for the purchase of at least 21 MiG-29 fighter jets worth over $800 million to bolster the ageing fleet of the world's fourth-largest air force.
The two countries are expected to ink a military logistics agreement during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Russia in September for an annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.