WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday approved a $4 billion sale of state-of-the-art drones to India, offering a new edge to the growing US partner as border tensions simmer with China. The sale marks a milestone in Indian purchases of American weapons after New Delhi’s historic reliance on weapons from Russia, which have been increasingly controversial due to sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Indian officials had discussed the drones during a state visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year at the invitation of President Joe Biden, following Indian skirmishes with neighbouring countries. After months of discussion, the State Department said it had informed Congress of the sale that includes 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardians, the most advanced among its Predator drones built by General Atomics.

“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,” a State Department statement said. “India has demonstrated a commitment to modernising its military and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

The Sea Guardians can monitor the seas as well as submarines and can remain airborne for 35 hours at a time and fire Hellfire missiles and carry around 450 kilograms of bombs.

The sale still needs approval by the US Congress, where most lawmakers favour strong relations with India but several members, especially on the left of Biden’s Democratic Party, have criticised Modi’s record on human rights.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Debt trap
Updated 30 May, 2024

Debt trap

The task before the government is to boost its tax-to-GDP ratio to the global average by taxing the economy’s untaxed and undertaxed sectors.
Foregone times
30 May, 2024

Foregone times

THE past, as they say, is a foreign country. It seems that the PML-N’s leadership has chosen to live there. Nawaz...
Margalla fires
30 May, 2024

Margalla fires

THE Margalla Hills — the sprawling 12,605-hectare national park — were once again engulfed in flames, with 15...
First steps
Updated 29 May, 2024

First steps

One hopes that this small change will pave the way for bigger things.
Rafah inferno
29 May, 2024

Rafah inferno

THE level of barbarity witnessed in Sunday’s Israeli air strike targeting a refugee camp in Rafah is shocking even...
On a whim
29 May, 2024

On a whim

THE sudden declaration of May 28 as a public holiday to observe Youm-i-Takbeer — the anniversary of Pakistan’s...