The US House of Representative has passed a legislative amendment that would protect India from punitive sanctions for buying missiles from Russia.
The India-specific amendment, passed on Thursday afternoon, still has to go through the Senate before it’s signed by President Joe Biden.
Authored and introduced by Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, it urges the Biden administration to give India a waiver to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which can bring immediate sanctions against New Delhi for buying weapons from Moscow.
The amendment argues that such a waiver is needed to deter China’s influence in the region. It was passed by voice vote as part of an en bloc amendment during floor consideration of the US defence bill for 2023.
The United States views India as a key ally in its effort to counter China’s growing global influence and has also included it in the alliance known as ‘Quad’ that aims to counter China in the Pacific region.US law deems waiver ‘necessary’ to counter China’s growing global influence
Enacted by the US Congress in 2017, CAATSA provides for punitive actions against any country engaged in transactions with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
CAATSA became a sticking point in India-US ties after New Delhi inked a deal to secure the S-400 missile defence system from Moscow, in the midst of the Russia-Ukraine war.
India has also violated US sanctions on buying oil from Russia.
In May, Senator Bob Menendez, who heads the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, pointed out at a congressional hearing that the Indians “go buy oil from Russia. They buy the S-400 [anti-missile system]. They abstain at the United Nations [on votes criticising Russia]” and yet they were never punished for these violations.
Mr Khanna, who is Vice Chair of the India Caucus in the US Congress, however, urged Washington to “stand with India in the face of escalating aggression from China”.
The Reuters news agency reported this week that India’s oil imports from Russia surged to a record of around 950,000 barrels per day (bpd) in June, as Indian refiners snapped up Russian oil sold at hefty discounts.
India shipped in about 4.8 million bpd of oil in June, about 23 per cent higher than a year earlier, the report added.