US likely to make sale of Guardian drones to India: officials

The US is likely to make a positive decision on Indias request for state-of-the art unarmed Guardian drones for maritime surveillance, especially in the Indian Ocean.

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 high-tech multi-mission Predator Guardian UAVs.

This was the first major request of arms sale purchase by India after Obama designated New Delhi as a major Strategic Defence partner.

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 administration believes that an approval of such a major military sale would help in “sealing Indian US defense 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.

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Officials here believe the sale of predator Guardian UAVs would act as a force multiplier for Indias 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” Indias request “within the system,” sources said.

At General Atomics which has announced to office in India this year, the effort is being spearheaded by Dr Vivek Lall who had been also instrumental in Indias ability to procure advanced Boeing P8I aircraft for maritime domain awareness capability, they said.

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