New Delhi: Foreign minister S Jaishankar on Monday defended India’s decision to buy a missile defence system from Russia despite the threat of sanctions from the US, saying it was New Delhi’s sovereign right to make such a decision.
In Washington on a three-day visit, his first as foreign minister, Jaishankar said India was discussing the concerns put forth by the US on India buying the Russian weapon system but refused to forecast the ultimate decision on the fate of the S-400 purchase.
“We have always maintained that what we buy — the sourcing of military equipment — is very much a sovereign right," he told reporters ahead of a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a PTI report said.
“We would not like any state to tell us what to buy or not to buy from Russia any more than we would like any state to tell us to buy or not buy from America," he said. “That freedom of choice is ours and we think it’s in everybody’s interest to recognise that."
India agreed to buy five S-400 systems for $5.2 billion last year and Russia has said that delivery was on track.
Under a 2017 law, the US imposes sanctions against countries over “major" arms purchases from Russia due to Moscow’s military involvement in Ukraine and Syria and alleged meddling in the 2016 US elections.
In June, Turkey angered the US by going ahead with an S-400 purchase. President Donald Trump responded by ending Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 fighter jet program but is yet to announce other sanctions.
Jaishankar hailed warm relations with the US but underlined India’s differences with Trump’s hawkish stance on Iran. “We view Iran from the east, and from the east Iran has been a very stable, status quo power," Jaishankar said.
For India, “we’ve been repeatedly assured that the affordable and predictable access to energy will not change," he said, declining to comment further on discussions on Iran.
The US has threatened sanctions to force all countries to stop buying oil from Iran as it seeks to curb Tehran’s influence in the West Asia.
In May, the Trump administration ended waivers for countries including India, formerly a leading customer for Iranian oil, as India’s ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla said India reduced its oil imports from Tehran to zero.