Ahead of Putin visit, final work on to seal air defence shield deal

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New Delhi: Work is on to seal a symbolic deal for air defence systems with Russia ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s visit, which had become a prestige point with the US. However, there are no assurances yet that the contract would be signed at the bilateral summit early next month.
The Rs 39,500-crore deal to procure the S 400 system that Indian Air Force believes has the potential to virtually ground its adversaries in Pakistan, is in the final stage with an approval note ready for a decision by the cabinet committee on security (CCS). Sources say there is no question of backing away from the deal and assurances have been given at the top level that India will not fall under US pressure of sanctions. However, there is still no clarity on when the final deal will be signed Defence ministry officials say things are in the final stage and that there are no points of contention but refrain from commenting on it being taken up at the summit. Meanwhile, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that “we’ll have to see it if it’s signed before the Russian President’s visit”.
The Russian side believes that for the systems to be delivered by 2020, as the Indian side desires, the mega deal has to be inked before the end of this year. “It would be feasible if the respective contract is signed by the end of this year. Being the best in the world and so far unrivalled anti-missile defense system S-400 is, naturally, in high demand…no production can start before the contract is signed.