The Trump administration is “considering” New Delhi’s request for armed drones for the Indian Air Force, weeks after approving the sale of high-tech unarmed Guardian drones to India.
“Yes, yes,” a senior administration official told PTI when asked about India’s pending request about the purchase of armed drones as part of its armed forces’ modernisation drive. The armed drones, the IAF feels, will help it to strengthen its defence capabilities.
Earlier this year, the IAF asked the US government for General Atomics Predator C Avenger aircraft. It is understood that the IAF would need 80 to 100 units, making it approximately a whopping $8 billion deal.
The Trump administration’s move comes months after a successful meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump at the White House on June 26, during which the US said it would sell India 22 unarmed Guardian drones, which would reinforce the Indian Navy’s surveillance capabilities in the strategic Indian Ocean region.
The earlier Obama administration designated India as a major defence partner and the Trump administration has accelerated the process of considering Indian requests.
“The US Navy and Indian Navy are cooperating for many years on counter-piracy efforts, on ensuring the freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and Persian Gulf,” the official said. “I think that (defence) cooperation is only going to increase based on the need for it to increase and the kind of trust we are building through personal relationships and through a fundamental understanding that our interests are aligned so clearly,” the official said.
Last week, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson had said that in keeping with India’s status as a major defence partner and their mutual interest in expanding maritime cooperation, the Trump administration has offered a menu of defence options for India’s consideration, including the Guardian UAV.
“We value the role India can play in global security and stability and are prepared to ensure they have even greater capabilities,” Mr Tillerson said ahead of his visit to India later this week.