The US House of Representatives approved legislation recommending an India-specific waiver for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).



  • The US Assembly has passed a legislative amendment that approves waiver to India against the punitive CAATSA sanctions for its purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.
  • The amendment urges the Biden administration to use its authority to provide India with a CAATSA waiver to help deter aggressors like China.
  • The president does not need legislative approval for a waiver. He has the executive authority to do so.


What is CAATSA?

  • In August 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law which specifically targets Russia, Iran, and North Korea, known as CAATSA.
  • The act empowers the US President to impose at least five of 12 listed sanctions — enumerated in Section 235 — on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
  • Basically, this law was meant to punish countries having deep engagements with Russia, North Korea, and Iran using economic sanctions.


Waivers under CAATSA

  • The act said countries having a “significant transaction” with Russian intelligence and military agents will be subject to at least five kinds of sanctions.
  • Hence, ordinary transactions will not invite sanctions and the imposition of sanctions comes down to the interpretation of significant transaction. This leaves the scope of waiver.
  • Other exemptions mentioned include the transaction not affecting US strategic interests, not endangering the alliances it is a part of, etc.


CAATSA and India

  • In 2018, India purchased the S-400 missile system from Russia and in November 2021 the delivery of this missile system began.
    • India had signed a $5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 defence missile systems.
  • In July 2018, the US communicated that it was ready to grant India (along with Indonesia and Vietnam) a waiver on the CAATSA sanctions.
    • Moments after India and Russia signed the deal, the US embassy in India said that the US sanctions were aimed to punish Russia, not to damage military capabilities of ‘our allies’.
  • However, off late, US seems to have changed its stand as Washington told India it was unlikely to get a waiver from CAATSA.
    • Last year, US sanctions were imposed on Turkey and China over the procurement of S-400 missiles systems.
    • Hence, there were renewed apprehensions that US may impose similar punitive measures on India.
  • So far, US had never categorically stated whether CAATSA would apply to India.
    • Also, citing the strategic defence partnership between the two countries, India is confident of getting a waiver from CAATSA.


S-400 Triumf

  • The Russian-built S-400 Triumf is the world’s most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range surface-to-air missile system.
    • A missile defence system is intended to act as a shield against incoming ballistic missiles.
  • It is considered much more effective than the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system developed by the US.
  • The S-400 was made operational in 2007, and is responsible for defending Moscow. It was deployed in Syria in 2015 to guard Russian and Syrian naval and air assets.
  • The S-400 is a mobile system that integrates a —
    • multifunction radar,
    • autonomous detection and targeting systems,
    • anti-aircraft missile systems,
    • launchers, and
    • a command-and-control centre.
  • It can be deployed within five minutes, and is capable of firing four types of missiles to create a layered defence.
  • It can engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and ballistic and cruise missiles within a range of 400 km, at an altitude up to 30 km.
  • It can simultaneously track 100 airborne targets, including super fighters such as the US-built F-35, and engage six of them at the same time.


Why India needs this?

  • India must have the capability to thwart missile attacks from the two likeliest quarters, Pakistan and China.
  • Beijing signed a deal with Moscow in 2015 to buy six battalions of the S-400 system, and deliveries began in January 2018.
  • While the Chinese acquisition has been seen as a “gamechanger” in the region, the concern for India is limited because of the system’s range.
  • However, the S-400 can play a crucial role in case of a two-front war.
  • While the 36 Rafales armed with Meteor and Scalp missiles being inducted by IAF are primarily meant for an offensive role, the S-400 systems are defensive in nature.