The United States of America has cleared the sale of 22 Guardian Drones to India, a deal that has been described as a ‘game changer’ for the bilateral ties and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to the Trump White House. Although neither the White House nor the State Department confirmed this, an official statement is to be expected soon according to government sources.
The Indian Navy had made requests for the issue of these drones to the Pentagon three times since June 2016 according to officials. Securing these 22 Drones would make India the first country that is not under the NATO alliance to make such a purchase. The cost of the entire deal is estimated to be between $2 billion to $3 billion and according to US Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner, this deal would advance US national security interests and protect US jobs. The decision was communicated to the Indian Government and the manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical by the State Department on Wednesday.
This deal would also be a key test of defense ties that had flourished formerly under the Obama administration but have diminished under Donald Trump owing to his courting of India’s rival, China, as he seeks China’s help to keep a check on North Korea’s nuclear program. Eurasia Group’s Shailesh Kumar and Sasha Riser-Kositsky revealed in a note that there is a noticeable fear in New Delhi that Trump’s lack of focus on India and limited appointments of South Asia focused advisors has resulted in India falling off the radar in Washington. The deal had also been put off because of Trump’s accusation on India trying to extract money out of the Paris Climate Accords. Modi’s visit to Washington would hopefully ease the tensions between the two nations.
According to General Atomics Aeronautical, the Predator is a major evolutionary leap in overall performance and reliability and has unmatched operational flexibility. It has an endurance of over 42 hours and can operate up to 50,000 feet. It is twice as fast as Predator and carries 5 times more payload. The unmanned aircraft is engineered to meet and exceed the reliability standards of a manned aircraft. It can be remotely piloted or be fully autonomous and has 7 external stations for carrying payloads.
Dr. Vivek Lall of General Atomics, a US Aerospace expert, is believed to have played a role in making the Trump administration reach this decision quickly. He also played a role in India acquiring Boeing P8 ISR technology.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Washington DC during his trip to the United States of America and will hold talks with President Donald Trump on issues of regional security and terror situation, while also meeting with business leaders at a community event.