India, Russia likely to sign arms deal during Putin’s visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greet each other prior to their talks in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. Putin arrived in India on Thursday for a two-day visit during which India is expected to sign a $5 billion deal to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems despite a new U.S. law ordering sanctions on any country trading with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in India on Thursday for a two-day visit during which India is expected to sign a $5 billion deal to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems despite a new U.S. law ordering sanctions on any country trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold annual talks on Friday and oversee the signing of a slew of agreements, India’s External Affairs Ministry said.

Indian media reports said the accords are expected to include areas such as nuclear energy, space exploration and economics.

The sale of Russian long-range surface-to-air missile systems is a sticking point as it is unclear whether India will receive a waiver from Washington on U.S. sanctions intended to punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea and alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

During his visit to India last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said discussions were continuing over whether to grant India waivers from U.S. sanctions on Russia and Iran, India’s second-largest oil supplier, adding that India had committed to purchasing more energy products and aircraft from the U.S. to reduce their trade deficit.

The U.S. did not spare China from sanctions last month, when it purchased Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air missile equipment.

India and Russia have a close relationship that dates back to the Cold War, when the U.S. tilted toward Pakistan, India’s neighbor and archrival. India depended on Russia for political support as well as billions of dollars in military hardware. Nearly 70 percent of India’s present-day defense equipment was procured from Russia, according to India’s Defense Ministry.

India is now looking to upgrade and diversify its capabilities, and sees the S-400 missile systems as a game-changer. India also has intensified its defense ties with the U.S. in recent years with joint military drills and defense sales.

India has signed more than $15 billion in U.S. defense contracts since 2008, including for C-130J and C-17 transport aircraft, P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, Harpoon missiles and Apache and Chinook helicopters.

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