Army chief Bipin Rawat says India needs to bypass US sanctions for Russian weapons

India is in talks with the United States to secure a sanctions waiver as its military is heavily dependent on Russian equipment, and the matter is likely to be discussed during the proposed 2+2 talks.

Army chief General Bipin Rawat has said that it is critical that India find ways to bypass American sanctions against Russia, given that Russian-origin weaponry is in widespread use in the Indian armed forces.

In his first comments on US  sanctions against India’s top arms supplier, Rawat said: “We have to pursue own national interests and see what’s good for us. India has a large quantity of Russian weapons and platforms. So there are legacy issues.”

The US sanctions could be bypassed through an alternative payment route to sustain bilateral Indo-Russian defence trade, said Rawat. “It’s not just about new equipment, other aspects such as spares, servicing and technical support are equally important,” the army chief said.

Russian-origin equipment forms the backbone of the army’s armoured and mechanised infantry units.

The US passed the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act earlier this year. The new US legislation does provide some flexibility for countries such as India that are dependent on Russian equipment, but Washington wants India to diversify its suppliers of military equipment and reduce dependence on Russian military hardware.

“Whether it’s the army, navy or air force, we have been using Russian equipment for decades. Some of the deals that are coming to fruition now (with Russia) such as the S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems have been under discussion for a few years. These factors need to be understood,” said a senior government official who did not wish to be named.

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