India receives Russian S-400 missiles to ward off ‘aerial threats from China, Pakistan’

An S-400 surface-to-air missile launcher is displayed at the "ARMY-2019 International Military and Technical Forum" in Moscow in June 2019.–File photo

In yet another attempt to defend itself from the perceived aerial threats that China and Pakistan pose to New Delhi, India has started receiving S-400 Triumf missile systems from Russia.

The move comes ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi for an annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December this year.

As Russia has begun supplying S-400 Triumf missile systems to India, it will give a boost to New Delhi’s air defence capabilities along its volatile borders with traditional rivals China and Pakistan.

New Delhi had finalised the $5.43 billion deal with Moscow to buy five surface-to-air missile systems for the Indian Air Force in 2018. However, the delivery of the latest consignment of the Russian military hardware to India could trigger US sanctions against India under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was signed in 2017.

The act imposes economic penalties on countries that purchase Russian military hardware. The threat of US sanctions comes despite New Delhi’s strong defence and strategic ties with Washington. The strategic partners make up half the Quad, which is widely seen as attempt to limit China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Director Dmitry Shugaev said that supply of the S-400 air defence system to India had begun and it was moving forward as per the schedule.

The delivery of the first S-400 missile system that could engage aerial targets, including aircraft, drones, and ballistic and cruise missiles within a range of 400 kilometres, was expected to be completed by the end of the year. The system consists of the firing unit, the control system and the missile itself.

NC Bipindra, a New Delhi-based defence strategist, says, “The S-400 [will help] India defend itself from any aerial threat that China and Pakistan pose to it.” He pointed out that Beijing already had this missile system and now New Delhi had acquired it from Russia as “a countermeasure”.

Bipindra is of the view that India is matching its air defence capabilities with China in [regard to] the S-400, but it has an upper hand against aerial threats from Pakistan, which does not have this missile system.

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