New Delhi plans to install a new batch of surface-to-air missile systems along India’s northern Himalayan border with China by October, the Times of India reported on Monday, as the two neighbors remain engaged in a border standoff that began in June 2020.
“India’s capability to detect and destroy hostile fighters, strategic bombers, missiles and drones at long ranges will get another major boost when a new squadron of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile systems becomes operational along the northern borders with China in the next two to three months,” the Times of India reported on July 25.
“[D]eliveries of the second operational S-400 squadron through ships and aircraft are now underway from Russia,” the newspaper revealed, citing unnamed sources.
New Delhi has continued to move forward with a plan to acquire five S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Moscow pursuant to a $5.5 million deal signed by the two parties in 2018.
The U.S. government maintains icy relations with the Kremlin and actively discourages other nations from supporting Moscow through defense deals. This attitude has caused Washington to publicly oppose India’s acquisition of the Russian anti-aircraft systems. The U.S. has additionally threatened to impose sanctions on New Delhi should it follow through with the business transaction. India, for its part, argues that it needs the Russian S-400s to counter a grave “national security” threat from China along the two Asian giants’ largely unmarked Himalayan boundary.
“India has told the US that the S-400 systems, the acquisition process for which began before CAATSA was enacted in 2017, are an ‘urgent national security requirement’ to counter its hostile neighbors,” the Times of India observed on Monday.
CAATSA, or the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” is a U.S. law that attempts to discourage foreign states from purchasing Russian weapons, among other aims. Though New Delhi inked its anti-aircraft systems deal with Moscow in 2018, the transaction had been in the works prior to 2017. India’s government notes this timeline when asserting that CAATSA should not apply to New Delhi’s acquisition of Russian S-400s.
U.S. legislators voted on July 14 against sanctioning India for its decision to import the surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
“The Congress waiver also came two days before India and China decided to ‘maintain stability’ along their borders where rival armies are locked in a face-off since clashes in 2020 left many soldiers killed,” Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported of the U.S. Congress vote against sanctioning New Delhi on July 23.
“Last December, India took delivery of the first of the five S-400 systems from Russia as part of a 2018 contract worth €5.3 billion and deployed it in the Punjab bordering nuclear rival Pakistan [sic],” RFI recalled.
“The remaining systems are likely to be set up along India’s eastern frontier where a border dispute with China led to a brief but bloody war in 1962,” the French broadcaster predicted.
India and China’s deadliest border conflict in roughly 45 years took place on June 15, 2020, in the Galwan Valley of northern India’s Ladakh state, located in the western Himalayas. Chinese troops ambushed an Indian border regiment in an overnight attack that resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an estimated 38 Chinese troops. The melee caused diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Beijing to deteriorate. The two sides remain engaged in an unofficial standoff along their Himalayan boundary today.
The Times of India reported on July 25 that China’s military has ramped up belligerent actions along its sensitive Indian border in recent weeks. The behavior prompted New Delhi to order a fresh deployment of its S-400 systems to the region in the coming months.
“The new S-400 deliveries come at a time when China has cranked up its air activity across eastern Ladakh, with Chinese fighters often flying close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in violation of the 10-km no-fly zone confidence building measure between the two sides,” according to the newspaper.
The LAC is New Delhi’s official name for its largely unmarked Himalayan boundary with China.