Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

The sanctions cloud over India-U.S. ties


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CAATSA

Mains level: Paper 2- Implications of CAATSA on India-US ties


The delivery of the S-400 Triumf air defence systems from Russia is expected according to schedule. In response, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman hoped that both the U.S. and India could resolve the issue.

Background of the CAATSA

  • The Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was passed when the U.S. sought to discourage trade in the defence and intelligence sectors of Russia.
  • The Act mandates the President to impose at least five of the 12 sanctions on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
  • These sanctions include suspending export licence, banning American equity/debt investments in entities, prohibiting loans from U.S. financial institutions and opposing loans from international finance institutions.
  • The Act also built in a safety valve in the form of a presidential waiver.
  • The “modified waiver authority” allows the President to waive sanctions in certain circumstances.
  • There are a few more provisions including one that allows for sanctions waivers for 180 days, provided the administration certifies that the country in question is scaling back its ties with Russia.

Implications of CAATSA sanctions against India and scope for waiver

  • Impact on bilateral relationship: Sanctions have the tremendous potential of pulling down the upward trajectory of the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and India, which now spans 50 sectors, especially in the field of defence.
  • India turned sullen over the manner in which the U.S. negotiated the exit deal with the Taliban.
  • Quad engagement: Yet, on the strategic plane, India remained on course by agreeing to the upgrading of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and sharing the same vision as the U.S. on the Indo-Pacific construct.
  • The U.S.’s apprehension is that bringing India under a sanctions regime could push New Delhi towards its traditional military hardware supplier, Russia.
  • The U.S. Sanctions can stir up the latent belief in India that Washington cannot be relied upon as a partner.
  • While the administration will have to do the heavy lifting, the role of Indian-Americans should be significant just as they rallied around to support the Civil Nuclear Deal in the face of stiff resistance from Democrats opposed to nuclear proliferation.
  • Decrease in imports from Russia: India’s import of arms decreased by 33% between 2011-15 and 2016-20 and Russia was the most affected supplier, according to a report by the Stockholm-based defence think-tank SIPRI.
  • In recent years, though, there have been some big deals worth $15 billion including S400, Ka-226-T utility helicopters, BrahMos missiles and production of AK-203 assault rifles.
  • Increase in defence import from US: On the other hand, over the past decade, government-to-government deals with the U.S. touched $20 billion and deals worth nearly $10 billion are under negotiation.


The CAATSA test will determine the course of the India-U.S. strategic partnership. Whether the Biden administration sail through opposition within his party remains to be seen.

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