No pressure on India to buy F-16 fighters from U.S.: Envoy

No pressure on India to buy F-16 fighters from U.S.: Envoy


  1. A senior U.S. diplomat has stated that US in not going to put pressure on India to buy its F-16 fighter jets.

Important Facts:

2. About F-16 fighter jets:

  • The F-16 Fighting Falcon, manufactured by Lockheed Martin ( American global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies company) is the world’s most prolific fighter aircraft.
  • There are than 2,000 F-16 fighter jets  in service with the US Air Force (USAF) and 2, 500 operational with 25 other countries.
  • F-16 is a multi-role combat fighter with top speed of Mach 2, twice the speed of sound.
  • It is capable of carrying the nuclear payload and has a range more than 3000 km.

3. Background:

  • India recently concluded a $5 billion deal to buy the S-400 air defence missile system from Russia.
  • It could attract U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries (CAATSA) through Sanctions Act instituted by the U.S. Congress on arms purchases from Moscow.
  • American lawmakers, however, have allowed the possibility of a presidential waiver to India.
  • India, has told the US that the acquisition of the S-400 systems, which can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, fighter jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380 km, was an “urgent national security requirement” for it.

4. India’s vulnerability to CAATSA:

  • As the largest user and buyer of Russian weapons, India is vulnerable to Section 231 of the CAATSA law, which imposes sanctions on individuals and countries that deal with Russia’s intelligence and defence sectors.

  • More than 70 per cent of the weapons fielded by India’s armed forces and 60 percent of the country’s defence imports are of Russian origin.

5. How India can avoid sanctions under CAATSA:

  • In the immediate term, one way to avoid secondary sanctions would be if the US determines that India is reducing its dependence on Russian arms.
  • According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “Russian hardware represented 62 per cent of the country’s total weapons imports during the past five years, compared with 79 per cent in 2008-2012.”
  • India may seek an official declaration from the US, specifying that anti-Russian measures would not be used against Indian companies.
  • India should enact its own legislation which declares that decisions based on extraterritorial foreign laws that prevent free trade are unlawful and therefore not applicable to it.
  • New Delhi can complain at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and threaten counter sanctions to protect its legitimate interests.
  • India’s leverage as the world’s second largest weapons importer needs to be communicated clearly to the USA because India has an ambitious $250 billion plan to modernise India’s military and a hefty chunk of that amount will go to buy advanced weapons.

6. Way forward:

  • The US which has been the biggest beneficiary of India’s arms diversification programme in the past two decades  will end up as the biggest loser if it slaps sanctions.
  • By fast tracking indigenisation, India can ensure self-sufficiency in defence and become immune from sanctions.
  • With the US creating a new Indian Ocean-Pacific Ocean command (the aforementioned IndoPaCom) to take on China’s growing naval power, Washington needs India as a strategic partner.
  • India should use this leverage to squeeze all the waivers it can to nullify CAATSA.
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