Why United States House of Representatives Approved an India-Specific CAATSA Waiver?


On 14th July 2022, Hose of Representative of United States Congress passed India specific amendment for CAATSA. The amendment was moved by a Democrat Congressman Mr. Ro Khanna (Rohit Khanna). This amendment authorizes the US government to lift CAATSA sanctions from India. It allows India to purchase military equipment from countries like Russia. 

What is CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act)?

CAATSA is a United States federal law which was signed by former President Donald Trump on 2nd August, 2017. US Congress passed CAATSA to punish those countries who have close ties with Russia, North Korea and Iran.

CAATSA authorize the president of USA to impose sanction against Iran’s weapon of mass destruction program because this program of Iran can destabilize middle east and also poses a threat to America’s key ally Israel. On the other hand, Tier II of the legislation deals with sanctions on Russia especially in crude oil export, purchase and sell of defense equipment, closure of financial institutions and privatization of state properties for interfering in 2016 US presidential elections and military action in Ukraine. This act also restricts the president of USA from easing or ending the sanctions without proper approval of US congress. North Korea is also in the list of CAATSA imposed countries because it had violated certain United Nations Security Council resolutions.      

USA had also imposed CAATSA secondary sanctions on Turkey for purchasing S-400 missile system from Russia. The sanctions were imposed in accordance with Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This is the first time any NATO country had came under US Sanction list. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed an agreement with Russian defense officials to purchase S-400 system. At that time US Secretary of Defense was Mike Pompeo and he had raised concerns over this deal for several times. But Turkey ignored US Sanctions by citing existing international protocols and signed the deal with Russia to purchase S-400 system. 

CAATSA waiver for India

Borders of India with China and Pakistan are not secure. We all know that India had purchased five units of S-400 Surface to Air missile defense system from Russia in the year 2018. India wants to deploy those to secure the borders with unfriendly China and Pakistan. But India ignored the possibility of US sanctions for military purchase from Russia. Because it was not a UN sanction, it was a US Sanction. One country should not have the authority for policing on the whole world.

From the times of Cold War, India used to buy its defense equipment from Soviet Union presently Russia. But now India became a major defense partner of United States. Previously, in 2019 India bought weapons worth $15 Billion from USA. But still India is dependent on Russian weapons. That’s why previously US lawmakers asked the senate to make sure that the CAATSA sanctions should not affect defense partners like India. But US Secretary of state Mr. Antony Blinken said in two plus two dialogue between US and India, that there will be no waivers under CAATSA.             

US had imposed sanction on a key NATO ally Turkey for purchasing S-400 from Russia. But at last US passed an India specific amendment for CAATSA waiver. Almost all of the democratic congress person and majority of Republicans had voted for CAATSA sanction waiver for India. Total 330 members in 435 members house had votes in favor of the amendment. Only 99 members had voted against it.

Why US Approved Waiver for India?

The architect of CAATSA waiver Mr. RO Khanna said in parliament that US should stand with India because India is facing Chinese aggression in its border. That’s Why India want to buy S-400 ignoring US Sanctions. He emphasized on US-India partnership and its importance for US strategic interest. Previously, US also approved nuclear deal with India knowing that India is not a signatory of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Act says to partner with democracies like India to foster innovation and technological advancement. India is also a vital ally of US in South Asian region. US acknowledge that India has its autonomous foreign policy and its defense purchases are only for its national security. Republicans are always in favor of waiving CAATSA sanctions on India. A top Republican Senator Ted Cruz previously said to Biden Administration that India is a very important ally of United states. That’s why US should not impose any sanction on India. Mr. Ted Cruz also pointed that relations between India and US has deteriorated under Biden Administration.

Ted Cruz

Accepting an waiver for India is really a positive step by United States and no doubt it will take India closer to them. That’s why Mr. Ro Khanna said that this is a very “Significant Legislation” because for the same type of purchase US had imposed sanctions on Turkey. They had imposed same type of sanctions on Chinese Ministry of Defense, Equipment Development Department for purchasing 10 Sukhoi 35 fighters from Russia. But India in this case got a waiver which is significant.

The amendment of the Act says in Section 4(1) that a strong Indo-US defense partnership is important to advance US interests in Indo-Pacific region. It also says in Section 8(2) that partnership between world’s largest and oldest democracies are important to counter threats in Indo-Pacific. It acknowledges India’s historic dependence on Russian weapons and presently India is facing military aggression in Indo-China border. The Act tells US to encourage India for not using Russian made military weapons for its immediate needs.    


Analysts had observed that CAATSA is enacted to punish US adversaries like Iran, Russia and North Korea. Sanctions will be imposed on those countries who will purchase weapons or have transactions with these three countries. But on the other hand, we can find European Union have gas pipeline projects with Russia and EU countries are important ally of US also. That’s why Analysts observed that imposing CAATSA randomly can backfire US.

Obviously, this amendment will help India, but it’s time for India to rethink and encourage Indian companies and startups to develop indigenous technologies and defense equipments for further needs. This will make India self-reliant in defense manufacturing. It also will help India to become a defense exporter.  

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