A top Indian general downplayed the significance of his country’s relationship with the United States while talking to Russian officials on Sunday, despite major recent defense agreement between the world’s two largest democracies.

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat cited last week’s decision to proceed with the purchase of Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system, despite U.S. sanctions on Russia’s defense industry, as evidence of India’s independence from American foreign policy wishes. The remarks come just weeks after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed a landmark agreement to enhance cooperation on regional defense issues.

“When Russians asked about the American sanctions, my reply was, ‘yes, we do appreciate that there could be sanctions on us, but we follow an independent policy,’” Rawat said during a speech. “You can rest assured. While we may be associating with America in getting some technology ... we follow an independent policy.”

Kremlin-run media touted his remarks on Sunday, as U.S. sanctions on Moscow’s defense sector have been a bone of contention ever since Congress imposed the measures as punishment for the 2016 election interference.

“There's a legacy of the relationship between Russia and India,” Rajen Hershe, an international relations professor based in New Delhi, told Sputnik News in a recent interview. “It used to be the Soviet Union, now it's Russia. ... Russia still supplies 60 percent of the equipment that India buys, so it's a very important defense-related partner as far as India is concerned.”

U.S. officials are working to wean India off of Russian weapons with an eye toward a long-term relationship to bracket China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific region. The two sides agreed last month to grant India access to some of the most sensitive U.S. military and intelligence technology, with a particular eye toward maritime security as China bolsters its navy.

“We know the threats to stability that exist in the region, and the United States seeks to ensure that both of our peoples can live in peace and in freedom,” Pompeo said during the Sept. 6 dialogue.

Pompeo sidestepped questions about the prospective S-400 purchase at the time, while Mattis lobbied Congress successfully for the authority to grant waivers that might protect India from the 2017 sanctions law. But U.S. officials have taken a hard line on other S-400 purchases. President Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on a Chinese military unit that purchased the weapons, and the State Department has worried openly that Turkey’s prospective purchase of the anti-aircraft weapons could lead to Russia gaining valuable intelligence on how to target America’s most advanced stealth fighter jets.

“They will certainly come up, but I don’t think they’ll be the primary focus of what it is we’re trying to accomplish here,” Pompeo last month while discussing Indian arms deal with Russia. “This set of meetings ... they’re really about things that are big and strategic and will go on for 20, 40, 50 years."