The Biden administration is urging India to flatten bureaucratic hurdles and take forward a long-awaited deal for US-made armed drones ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Washington.
What Happened? US negotiators are hopeful that Modi’s visit to the White House on June 22 will pave the way for the purchase of up to 30 MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones from defence firm General Atomics, Reuters reported, citing sources.
While India has been keen on acquiring large armed drones from the US for years, the South Asian country’s plans have faced bureaucratic obstacles, delaying a potential multibillion-dollar deal for SeaGuardian drones.
The Biden administration has made a concerted effort to strengthen ties with India as the US seeks to stifle China’s growing influence in the region.
During the visit, Modi and President Biden are also expected to discuss collaboration on the co-production of munitions and ground vehicles, such as armoured personnel carriers, sources told the business publication.
Resolving the bureaucratic challenges in India requires generating an “Acceptance of Necessity” document, a precursor to the formal “Letter of Request” for the foreign military sale process. It remains uncertain whether the Indian government has generated the necessary internal document, the sources said.
The decision to purchase MQ-9s rests with the Indian government, and Biden administration officials emphasized the potential benefits of acquiring the drones while acknowledging India’s autonomy in the matter.
India has yet to finalize the exact number of drones to purchase, and its wish to manufacture certain components domestically could complicate the deal.
It was reported last week that Washington was not seriously considering rolling back steep tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium despite India’s attempts to scrap the duties.
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