Russia, India Non-Committal on Missile System Delivery Timeline
Visitors inspect a Russian army S-400 Triumf mobile anti-aircraft missile system. (Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)  

Russia, India Non-Committal on Missile System Delivery Timeline

India and Russia’s top diplomats sidestepped questions on the pending delivery of Moscow’s controversial S-400 weapons system to New Delhi and vowed to deepen military-technical cooperation following a meeting in New Delhi Tuesday.

The South Asian nation’s planned purchase of the anti-aircraft missile system from Russia -- due for delivery in December -- has raised the risk of U.S. sanctions similar to those imposed on Turkey. The former Trump administration had denied India a waiver from a 2017 U.S. law aimed at deterring nations from buying Russian military hardware, a stance that is expected to continue under President Joe Biden.

“We reiterated our commitment to military-technical cooperation,” Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said after discussions with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. “We have an intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation. It has its plans, and this includes discussion of additional manufacturing of Russian military equipment on Indian territory.”

Jaishankar said the S-400s would be discussed at a meeting of defense ministers later in the year.

The two sides also discussed vaccine cooperation and an expected visit to India of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

India is set to clear the Russia-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, which will make available a third vaccine option for the South Asian nation, which is the world’s third-worst-hit nation after the U.S. and is battling a steep resurgence of Covid-19 infections.

To be manufactured by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd., Sputnik V is a two-dose vaccine which needs to be stored in liquid form at or below -18 degree Celsius.

The meeting between the two foreign ministers comes as the U.S. is pushing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban to reach a peace deal so it can withdraw the remaining 2,500 American forces from the war-torn country, and amid strained relations between Washington and Moscow. Despite the tensions, Russia has publicly backed the U.S. proposal for an interim government of national unity bringing together the Taliban and Afghan leaders.

“The Taliban movement is part of Afghan society and decisions on the settlement in Afghanistan should foresee the participation of all political, ethnic and religious groups in Afghanistan, otherwise it won’t be durable,” Lavrov said. “And this settlement should reflect a balance of interests of all political, ethnic and religious groups, including their representation in governing structures.”

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