Washington: The US is likely to respond positively to India’s request for 22 unarmed high-tech multi-mission Predator Guardian drones for maritime surveillance, especially in the Indian Ocean, sources have said.
The move comes after India was designated a ‘ major defence partner ‘ of the US in June. Within weeks of that designation, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Barack Obama at the White House in early June, the Indian Navy had sent an official letter of request (LoR) in February to Department of Defense towards purchase of 22 Predator Guardian UAVs.
The US government has not made a formal decision on it yet, but is believed to have started an inter agency process on the Indian request. According to sources, the US administration believes that an approval of such a major military sale would help in “sealing India-US defence relationship”, bring in “a new level of comfort” between the two militaries and would be considered as a lasting legacy not only for India but also for the Asia-Pacific pivot of the outgoing president.
Officials believe the sale of predator Guardian UAVs would act as a force multiplier for India’s maritime surveillance capabilities in the Indian Ocean region; which of late has become one of the key American objective in the Asia Pacific region.
Top governmental sources confirmed that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter had detailed discussions on predator Guardian UAV to fulfill maritime surveillance requirements.
Parrikar was in the US last week and held meetings with Carter at the Pentagon on August 29. During the meeting, Carter is understood have assured Parrikar he would personally “champion” India’s request “within the system,” sources said.
Sources indicate along with the White House, the Pentagon and some influential members of the US are keen to complete the process as soon as possible before Obama leaves his presidency next January.
However, a section within the State Department has to be convinced that this is in the interest of the US national security as well. This maritime capability will be a force multiplier for the Indian Navy who has procured other advance technologies including Boeing P-8 aircraft.
The Guardian, manufactured by General Atomics, has cutting edge technologies that do not do not exist in the current Indian Navy arsenal.