The Indian Defence Ministry has approved the purchase of US-made armed MQ-9BC Guardian drones.
Sources familiar with the matter have told the British news agency Reuters that India will buy 30 drones worth more than three billion dollars made by the American company General Atomics.
The Indian Defence Ministry gave the initial clearance to buy these armed drones on Thursday, a few days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US next week.
According to sources, the Ministry of Defence’s highest body for capital procurement held a meeting today to approve the deal. The announcement of this deal is expected during the Indian Prime Minister’s meeting with US President Joe Biden next week.
Joe Biden has prioritised a deeper defence relationship with India to counter China’s growing influence and has offered to cooperate on military technology even though the two countries have no formal security alliance.
Ministry of defence’s ‘acceptance that they need them (drones)’ is the first step towards the procurement process. Now it needs approval from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet.
The US government had approved
The US government had approved the sale of 30 armed drones to India more than two years ago. But the Indian defence ministry blocked the decision.
However, as the dates for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s four-day visit to the US starting on June 21 were finalised it. The Biden administration began pressuring India to show progress on the deal.
These armed drones will mainly be used by the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean region.
The Indian Navy has leased two MQ-9B unarmed drones for surveillance since November 2020.