Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in India, meets PM Modi ahead of summit talks

Reuters Delhi, India Oct 04, 2018, 10.55 PM(IST)

Vladimir Putin meets PM Modi in New Delhi. Image via @narendramodi Photograph:( Twitter )

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Local media reported that the two nations are also expected to announce a new space cooperation programme.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday at the latter's residence in New Delhi ahead of summit talks.

"Welcome to India, President Putin. Looking forward to our deliberations, which will further enhance India-Russia friendship" said Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in a tweet.

On Friday India and Russia will hold high-level delegation talks and are expected to sign a deal worth more than $5 billion on the delivery of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.

Local media reported that the two nations are also expected to announce a new space cooperation programme.

The United States has warned India against a planned purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia when President Vladimir Putin visits New Delhi this week, saying such an acquisition would attract sanctions under US law.

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India's military wants the missile batteries, both as a deterrent against China and to gain an edge over traditional rival, Pakistan, as they are able to track and shoot down combat aircraft, even stealth planes, at unprecedented ranges.

The United States has warned countries trading with Russia's defence and intelligence sectors they would face automatic sanctions under a sweeping legislation called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that President Donald Trump signed into law last August.

The law is designed to punish Putin for the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, involvement in the Syrian civil war and meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

"We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that would trigger sanctions under the CAATSA," a US State Department representative said.

"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 defence system."

Last month, the United States imposed sanctions on China's military for its purchase of combat fighters as well as the S-400 missile system it bought from Russia this year.

The United States is also concerned about NATO ally Turkey’s decision to buy the Russian missile system, seeing it as incompatible with the alliance systems.

Modi's government, caught in the US-Russia crossfire, hopes the Trump administration will give it a pass on the proposed arms transfer from Russia, officials in New Delhi said.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters India was closing in on the deal to buy the air defence system from Russia, with which it has long-standing military ties.

"Negotiation on S-400 air defence systems has been on for a long while and it is at a stage where it can be finalised," Sitharaman said last week. "We have a big legacy of buying defence equipment from Russia."

More than 80 per cent of India's military equipment was of Soviet origin during the days of the Cold War, but since its breakup, New Delhi has diversified its weaponry.

The United States is one of its top arms suppliers, closing $15 billion worth of deals in just the last decade.