“Freedom of Choice is ours” says EAM S. Jaishankar on India’s defence deals with Russia

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India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar who is currently in the United States for a three-day visit has defended India’s right to buy arms from Russia. India had signed a deal with the Russian government buying the S-400 missile defence system worth 5.43 billion US Dollars.

The United States has been critical of any major weapons deal which involves Russia. India, a cold war ally of the erstwhile Soviet Union has had close defence relations with Russia.

The United States has had a troubled relationship with Russia. The recent engagement of Russia in Ukraine and Syria created a dent in the fragile relationship between the two countries.

According to a report in NDTV, India’s EAM S. Jaishankar spoke to reporters before meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He said, “We have always maintained that what we buy — the sourcing of military equipment — is very much a sovereign right.”

The Indo-US relationship has been in a good phase but there are still concerns for the US and India to deal out to smoothen the relationship between the two. The US had earlier in the year withdrawn the waivers for the countries who were dealing with the Islamic Republic of Iran. India was the biggest customer for Iranian oil. Concerns further grew when India had bought the S-400 Missile defence system from Russia.

Under a 2017 law, the United States could impose sanctions over countries who have major arms deal with Russia. Despite the law, Turkey, a NATO ally had gone ahead with the deal alarming the US authorities.

The minister also 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. That freedom of choice is ours and we think it’s in everybody’s interest to recognize that.”

(Inputs from agencies)

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