Washington: The US State Department expressed optimism about the proposed drone deal with India, emphasising its “significant potential” to advance strategic technology cooperation. The deal was announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit last year, marking substantial growth in the US-India defence partnership over the past decade.
Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the US State Department, highlighted the importance of the deal in furthering strategic technology cooperation with India and enhancing military collaboration in the region.
While addressing the media, Miller said, “So I’ll say that generally, the US-India Defence Partnership has seen significant growth over the past decade. This is a proposed sale that was announced during Prime Minister Modi’s visit last year.”
“We believe it offers significant potential to further advance strategic technology cooperation with India and military cooperation in the region,” he added. He also acknowledged the crucial role of Congress in the arms transfer process, emphasising routine consultations with members of Congress on foreign affairs committees before formal notifications.
“Of course, Congress plays an important role in the US arms transfer process. We routinely consult with members of Congress on the foreign affairs committees before our formal notification so we can address questions that they might have. But I don’t have any comment on when that formal notification might take place,” Miller said.
The proposed drone deal is part of the broader efforts to strengthen defence ties between the United States and India. In June 2023, US President Joe Biden and PM Modi welcomed India’s plans to procure Predator drones made by General Atomics, a mega pact that will allow American Navy ships to undertake major repairs at Indian shipyards.
President Biden and PM Modi welcomed India’s plans to procure General Atomics MQ-9B HALE UAVs. The MQ-9Bs, assembled in India, will enhance the ISR capabilities of India’s armed forces across domains. As part of this plan, General Atomics will also establish a comprehensive global MRO facility in India, according to the US-India joint statement.
The agreement would strengthen India’s national security and surveillance capabilities, extending beyond the Indian Ocean and encompassing the border region with China. India shares vast maritime and land boundaries with two major adversaries–Pakistan and China–and requires constant monitoring of their activities to safeguard its national security interests.
The Quad grouping of countries – the United States, India, Australia and Japan – all operate, or have operated, the MQ-9B Sea Guardian. Currently, India is leasing MQ-9Bs as part of an intelligence-gathering operation.
The Predators, also called the MQ-9 Reaper, can fly up to 36 hours at a stretch and can be used for focused monitoring of any specific point or area of interest. As many as 31 Predator drones, to be acquired by India from the US soon, would be operated by the tri-services jointly.
President Biden and Prime Minister Modi also hailed the landmark signing of an MoU between General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the manufacture of GE F-414 jet engines in India, for the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Light Combat Aircraft Tejas MK-2, added the statement.