“The U.S president has power to waive sanctions on specific countries, upon specific transactions.”
On Wednesday, the United States has urged India to forgo it’s S-400 missile defense deal with Russia, warning that the deal could lead to the American sanctions. The deal is expected to be announced this week during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two-day visit to India.
The U.S. administration can exercise this power through it’s domestic law, Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA. This act allows them to impose sanctions on any country that has “significant transactions” with it’s counterpart countries like Iran, North Korea or Russia.
President Donald Trump has the power to waive these sanctions for specific countries and specific transactions. But their officials have repeatedly said in the recent past that India should not expect any automatic waiver if it goes ahead with the purchase from Russia.
While speaking to The Hindu, the state department spoke person said that this waiver might not be available to India and the S-400 deal falls in the category of sanctionable transactions.
“We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that would trigger sanctions under CAATSA. The Administration has indicated that a focus area for the implementation of CAATSA Section 231 is new or qualitative upgrades in capability – including the S-400 air and missile defense system,” the official said.
The official further indicated that the waiver option will not be used for India due to it’s strict criteria.
“There are strict criteria for considering a waiver. The waiver is narrow, intended to wean countries off Russian equipment and allow for things such as spare parts for previously-purchased equipment,” said the official.
‘India’s stand on the deal’
The Indian sources said that they had an extensive consultations on the deal with the U.S and the decision does not come as a surprise to the Trump administration.
“The U.S has been pressing India for scaling down its defence cooperation with Russia, while India has been clear about its intentions regarding the S-400 deal,” an official said.
‘The option for waiver’
Mr. Richard Rossow, Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at CSIS, believes that the Trump administration would like to the waiver option against India. However, he also thinks that, “if Congress tightens sanctions against Russia, there is a chance that the S-400 agreement could be reviewed further down the road.”
There is also no specific trigger points mentioned in CAATSA for sanctions, and the administration can delay the decision without announcing any waiver.
The question of presidential waiver arises if and only when the State Department moves ahead with a plan to impose sanctions on India. Sanctions against India are not something that the State Department, Pentagon, White House or the U.S. Congress want.
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