Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the United States administration has “heard and understood” India’s deal to purchase S-400 missile defence system from Russia, AFP reported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed a deal for the supply of S-400 Triumf missile system to India in October. The deal was signed despite a warning by the United States that it would impose sanctions on India if the agreement went through. Under new US laws, countries that sign deals with Russian defence or intelligence sectors can face secondary sanctions.

US President Donald Trump’s administration had imposed sanctions on China’s military in 2018 over Beijing’s purchase of the S-400 and other military hardware from Russia.

Sitharaman told AFP during an interview that Washington has taken into consideration that India, which shares borders with China and Pakistan, needs arms from Russia and others to remain a “strong partner”.

“In the case of S-400 we have explained ourselves well... That has been heard and understood,” Sitharaman said. “They have appreciated the point of view put forward.” The defence minister said negotiations with Moscow on the S-400 missiles had started before the US sanctions were introduced.

When asked if she was confident that India would avoid sanctions, Sitharaman said: “Yes I hope so.”

On the 2017 military standoff between India and China in Doklam sector, Sitharaman said differences had led to the face-off. “But our attempt, particularly after the prime minister’s Wuhan meet with the Chinese president, our attempt has been that these differences... cannot be allowed to become disputes.”

Sitharaman also addressed reports that India had declined a Chinese invitation to take part in a One Belt One Road forum in China this month. “Areas which are ours legally, which are under illegal occupation of Pakistan, are the ones which are becoming part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” Sitharaman said. “So having made that position very clear, we have not participated in anything to do with OBOR, and we stick to that position.”

Beijing’s One Belt, One Road initiative includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor connecting Kashgar in western China with the Gwadar Port in Pakistan. India has been against the project as a part of the corridor passes through Kashmiri territory occupied by Pakistan.