The purpose of CAATSA was to chasten the United States’ enemies, not punish its friends, argue supporters of a waiver for India.
The U.S. House of Representatives paved the way for removing a potential irritant in India-U.S. relations last month when it called upon the Biden administration to issue an India-specific waiver under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Secretary of State Antony Blinken can now exempt India from CAATSA sanctions designed to impose restrictions on countries that buy military systems from Russia.
The purpose of CAATSA was to chasten the United States’ enemies, not punish its friends — a point made by supporters of the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2023 that called for the waiver for India. Ro Khanna, the Indian-American Democratic congressman from California who moved the amendment, noted that India needs to maintain its Russian weapon systems as it faces “immediate and serious” threats from China.
The threat of CAATSA sanctions against India would have been self-defeating and would not have advanced U.S. interests. If the amendment is voted upon in the U.S. Senate, it is likely to get overwhelming support. But it is likely that the Biden administration will take the lead from the House of Representatives and reaffirm ties with India without necessarily waiting for a Senate vote.
When Congress legislated sanctions over arms purchases from Russia in 2017, it probably did not think through the likelihood of hurting India, a critical U.S. partner in the Indo-Pacific strategy for limiting China’s influence.