Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - III (General Studies – II) - 04 October 2018

Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam

UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-III: General Studies -II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Q. What is the significance of India’s S-400 deal with Russia? Discuss how the US sanctions law impacts this deal and why the US is set to exempt this acquisition for India. (250 Words)

Model Answer:


  • Why in news?
  • S-400 deal and its significance
  • Impact of CAATSA over this deal
  • Why India is being exempted?
  • Conclusion

Why in news?

India is planning to buy five S-400 Triumf air defense systems for around $4.5 billion from Russia. US has passed the Countering America's Adversaries through Sanction Act or CAATSA for imposing sanctions on a country or utility for any significant purchase of military equipment from Russia. India’s deal has been under problem however seeing the India’s assertiveness US is considering exempting this deal.

S-400 deal and its significance

  • The Russian-built S-400 Triumf (NATO calls it SA-21 Growler) is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range surface-to-air missile (MLR SAM) system in the world. It is considered to be much ahead of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD) developed by the United States. The mobile S-400 system can engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and ballistic and cruise missiles within a range of 400 km, at an altitude up to 30 km. It can track 100 airborne targets, including super fighters such as the American built F-35, and engage six of them simultaneously.
  • The S-400 system, which can be deployed within five minutes, integrates a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and a command & control centre, and is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defence.
  • China has already acquired S-400 so India needs to have it too as the relations between the two had not been good in the past. Acquiring the S-400 for itself can be crucial for India in case of a two-front war (possibly with China and Pakistan).
  • Russia has been India’s reliable partner and defence equipment supplier for decades however a recent shift in India’s foreign policy has brought the tie to a new low. This deal may also be seen as an attempt by India to rebuild ties with Russia.

Impact of CAATSA over this deal

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), passed by US Congress aims at taking punitive measures against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The Act primarily deals with sanctions on the Russian oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions, in the backdrop of its military intervention in Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections. The Act empowers the US President to impose at least five of 12 listed sanctions on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors.

If implemented stringently, CAATSA would impact Indian defence procurement from Russia — not just S-400s, but also Project 1135.6 frigates and Ka-226T helicopters — as well as joint ventures like Indo Russian Aviation Ltd, Multi-Role Transport Aircraft Ltd and Brahmos Aerospace. It would also affect purchase of spares, components, raw materials and other assistance. The bulk of India’s military equipment is of Soviet/Russian origin — including the nuclear submarine INS Chakra, the Kilo-class conventional submarine, the supersonic Brahmos cruise missile, the MiG and Sukhoi fighters, the Il transport aircraft, the T-72 and T-90 tanks, the Mi helicopters, and the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier.

Why India is being exempted?

  • The “strategic opportunity” that India presents – US is projecting India as a key player in its Indo-Pacific strategy. It is inclined to provide relief, citing the “strategic opportunity” that India presents. The CAATSA exemption underlines the growing defence and security cooperation that has seen India sign a logistics pact with the US, the US designating India as a Major Defence Partner, and both countries coming together on Indo-Pacific strategy, the newly resurrected Quad.
  • The opportunity “to trade in arms with India” – The US defence industry sees India as a major market. Over the last decade, deals with India have grown from near zero to $15 billion. “Since 2008, the US has bagged more than $15 billion in arms deals including for the C-17 Globemaster and C-130J transport planes, P-8 (I) maritime reconnaissance aircraft, M777 light-weight howitzer, Harpoon missiles, and Apache and Chinook helicopters. In percentage terms, the US share of Indian arms imports total 23% in terms of the number of contracts and 54% by value. This value is set to increase with the US likely accepting an Indian request for Sea Guardian drones. In addition, US manufacturers including Lockheed Martin and Boeing are strong contenders for a number of high-profile arms deals, including the recently floated tender notices for 110 fighters for the IAF, 57 Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters for the Navy, and 234 naval utility and multi-role helicopters.
  • India has been making it clear it would go ahead with the S-400 Triumf missile system deal with Russia regardless of the U.S. law and the threat of sanctions. So US was under pressure to provide relief.
  • It also marks an acceptance by the US of the point of principle that as a sovereign country, India cannot be dictated on its strategic interests by a third country.


CAATSA impacts India’s S-400 deal, Indo-US ties, and dents the image of the US as a reliable partner of India however the allowance of exemptions by US is indeed a moral victory of India’s assertion that as a sovereign country, it cannot be dictated on its strategic interests by a third country.

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