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The Trump Administration has approved a $2 billion sale of Guardian MQ-9B unarmed drones to India for maritime surveillance. The approval comes at a time when leaders of both the nations prepare for their first face-to-face meeting.
The Guardian is a modified maritime patrol variant of the successful line of General Atomics MQ-9 “Reaper” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle () family and operated under the banner of the United States Customs and Border Protection (US CBP).
According to defenseworld.com, India initiated its request to buy 22 Guardian MQ-9B unmanned aircrafts for maritime surveillance last year. The deal is estimated to be worth about $2 billion. However, the offer is still subject to congressional approval.
The acceptance from the administration marks a further deepening in defense ties before India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with President Donald Trump at the White House on in the following weeks. Modi’s two-day visit to Washington, takes place amid uncertainty over the relationship because of differences on trade and other issues.
So far in his term, Trump has focused on outreach to China, India’s strategic rival, as he looks to Beijing to rein in North Korea. However, Washington and New Delhi share concerns about China’s rise as a military power.
India reportedly wants the drones for surveillance of the Indian Ocean that China’s navy increasingly traverses after establishing its first overseas base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti. India’s archrival, Pakistan, would also likely be opposed to the sale.