New Delhi/Washington, DC
In a major move for India-US defense cooperation, the US state department on Thursday formally notified US Congress of its approval of the sale to India of 31 MQ-9B Drones and associated military equipment worth $3.99 billion. The move overcame token resistance from some lawmakers who, according to some reports, wanted New Delhi to carry out a “meaningful investigation” into the alleged plot to kill separatist activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun before signing off on the sale.
But a report that some lawmakers, including some Indian-American legislators, had put a hold on the sale turned out to be exaggerated after the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) delivered the required certification notifying the Congress of the possible sale on Thursday.
This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to strengthen the US-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defense partner that continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia regions, the news release said.
The proposed sale will improve India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation. India has demonstrated a commitment to modernizing its military and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces, it added.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.
US officials nevertheless acknowledged that members of the Congress were consulted on the sale “to address questions that they might have” in what they said is a routine process. Illustrative of the fact that such legislative hurdles seldom derail the White House’s overarching geo-political goals, DSCA said in a statement that the proposed sale “will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the US by helping to strengthen the US-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defense partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.”
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region. The principal contractor will be General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Poway, CA. The purchaser typically requests offsets. Any offset agreement will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor.
Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional US Government or contractor representatives to India, the release concluded.
India’s deal with the US of almost USD 4 billion, paving the way for the acquisition of 31 state-of-the-art MQ-9B Sky Guardian drones, will not only propel India’s defense capabilities but also ensure a 16-fold increase in the number of aircraft, significantly enhancing New Delhi’s maritime security beyond the current lease agreement.
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller shed light on the recently approved foreign military sale of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft to India. He said, “I cannot give a timeline. This was the initial step today. Notifying Congress of the exact timeline of the delivery is something that we will explore with the government of India over the coming months.”
Highlighting the significance of the deal, Miller emphasized, “Almost USD 4 billion sale of 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardian aircraft will provide India with enhanced maritime security and maritime domain awareness capability. It offers India outright ownership and a 16-fold increase in the number of aircraft as compared to their current lease.”
The Biden administration has today notified the US Congress of its intent to sell nearly 4 billion dollars’ worth of arms, comprising mainly MQ-9B drones armed with Hellfire missiles.
The defense security cooperation agency, which is an agency within the US Department of Defense, said in a press release on Thursday that the sale helps in strengthening the US-Indian Strategic Relationship.
It added that New Delhi continues to be an “important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.”
“The US State Department has made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale to the Government of India of MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of USD 3.99 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification, notifying Congress of this possible sale today,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.