NEW DELHI HAS VIEWED ITS REQUEST TO BUY THE DRONES AS A KEY TEST OF TIES WITH THE US UNDER THE NEW REGIME
WASHINGTON: The United States is reported to have approved the sale of 22 Guardian drones India had sought for its navy, clearing a key defence agreement ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US next week.
The US state department, which had some reservations regarding the impact the sale may have on regional security balance, communicated its decision to clear the deal, PTI said.
“As a matter of policy, we do not discuss potential or pending arms sales before they are notified to Congress,” a state department official told HT.
New Delhi has viewed its request to buy these unarmed drones as a key test of ties with the US under the new Donald Trump administration.
The Obama administration had declared India a “major defence partner”, giving it the same status for co-development and co-production of defence equipment as close allies, and this has been endorsed by Trump administration officials.
The purchase of drones was a big-ticket ask.
“We are trying to move it to the top of the agenda as a deliverable; this is something that can happen before all the other items,” an official tracking the progress of the drone discussions told Reuters.
The deal had the support of Congress and the White House and the state department had concerns that seemed to have been sorted out, reports said.
Modi is expected to arrive in the US on Friday on a two-day visit. He will meet President Trump in a set of one-on-one meetings on June 26 at the White House, ending the day with a dinner. This will the first meeting for the leaders who have spoken multiple times on phone, starting the morning after Trump’s stunning electoral victory in November 2016.