India is getting closer to purchasing 31 US-made MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones, which would offer improved maritime security and maritime domain awareness capacity, in a deal for about four billion dollars. The contract still requires US congressional approval, after the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) submitted the necessary certification informing the legislature of the potential sale of the drones.
The US State Department previously stated that it has approved a prospective foreign military sale to the Indian government of the MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and supporting equipment for an estimated cost of $3.99 billion.
“This was the first step today, alerting Congress. The specific timeframe for delivery will be discussed with the Indian government in the coming months,” state department official Matthew Miller told reporters.
Why is the India-US maritime drone pact important?
India has been aggressive in protecting maritime channels in the Indian Ocean region. The security situation in this marine environment has once again made news following attacks on Red Sea vessels by Yemen-based Houthi militants.
Recently, an Indian navy raced to assist a cargo ship that was struck by a Houthi missile. As a matter of fact, the Indian Navy has been safeguarding cargo ships from Somali pirates and other hazards in international seas even before the Houthi crisis started.
Drone agreement with India would not change regional military balance
“This proposed sale will support foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to strengthen the US-Indian strategic relationship and to improve security of a major defence partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region,” said the DSCA in a press release.
The agency added that the sale will benefit India’s capabilities to combat threats by conducting “unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols” in maritime routes and the addition of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft to India’s inventory would undoubtedly strengthen the country’s capabilities to offer net-security. Meanwhile, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems will be the primary contractor for the project.
To address fears about whether the US may arm India, the CIA has said unequivocally that the transfer of remotely piloted aircraft will “not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
“Implementation of this proposed transaction would not need the deployment of additional US Government or contractor representatives to India. The planned sale will have no negative impact on US defence preparedness, according to the DSCA.
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