India may ignore US pressure, buy Russian S-400s

India on Thursday hinted at going ahead with the $5.2 billion deal to buy S-400 air defence missile system, above, from Russia despite pressure from the US to scrap it and look for alternatives, reports say.

Addressing a press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Delhi, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said India has ties with several countries and it will do what is in the national interest.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed the S-400 deal in October last year.

Since India’s defence and security ties with Russia have stood the test of time, New Delhi may not forego the deal to avoid the risk of violating US sanctions on Moscow.

Without a Washington waiver on buying S-400s, India could be targeted under a 2017 US law which bans doing certain types of business with Russia.

It is not known whether Pompeo on Thursday tried to discourage India from acquiring S-400s.

Hailing US-India relations, he said great friends are bound to have differences.

Differences arose after Washington ended India’s decades-old duty-free access for some goods this month. India responded by raising tariffs on 28 American products.

The US wants greater market access and removal of trade barriers. Pompeo promised more US investments if India lowers trade barriers.

India expressed concern over oil supplies after it was forced to stop imports from Iran over US sanctions.

Pompeo’s visit on Thursday was significant as it marked the first high-level engagement between India and the US since Modi started his second term.

It also set the tone for a proposed meeting between Modi and Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, this week.

Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are expected to discuss S-400 contract on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting, TASS reports.

The state-run news agency cited a Kremlin aide as saying that the first batch of S-400 to Turkey will be delivered next month.

The S-400 can destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at a distance of 400 km and altitude of up to 30 km.