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US Sanctions Sale of 31 MQ-9B Drones, Elevating India’s Defense

31 MQ-9B armed drones to India

The U.S. State Department has approved the sale of 31 MQ-9B drones, related missiles, and equipment to the Indian government, with a total value of US$3.99 billion, to strengthen its maritime security and surveillance capabilities.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) stated in a statement on Thursday (February 1) that it had submitted the required certifications and notified Congress of the arms sales for 31 MQ-9B.

The approval of 31 MQ-9B armed drones comes as Washington looks to New Delhi to strengthen cooperation with the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, which seeks to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

This arms sale 31 MQ-9B also marks a milestone in India’s purchase of US weapons. Previously, New Delhi had relied on weapons from Russia. The purchase of Russian weapons has become increasingly controversial due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on it.

This large-scale arms sale of 31 MQ-9B includes 31 Sky Guardian drones, 170 Hellfire missiles, 310 small-diameter bombs, and related support materials.

Indian officials discussed the drones with the United States during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States last year. Before that, India had skirmishes with China and its old enemy, Pakistan.

After months of discussions with members of Congress and India, the U.S. State Department formally notified Congress of the arms sales plan.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency statement stated that the proposed sale would support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives, help strengthen the U.S.-India strategic relationship, and promote a leader who continues to contribute to political stability, peace, and economic development in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region. Advances play an important role in the security of key defense partners.

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“The proposed arms sales will enhance India’s ability to counter current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols of sea lanes.” “

India has demonstrated its commitment to modernizing its military and will effortlessly integrate this equipment and service into its armed forces.”

Although India has long enjoyed broad support in the U.S. Congress, the deal of 31 MQ-9B had previously been blocked in the U.S. Congress after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Indian officials in November last year in connection with an assassination on U.S. soil. conspiracy.

India has pledged to investigate the allegations, but some U.S. lawmakers have questioned whether the Modi and Biden administrations are taking them seriously enough and have shelved the deal.

Congress will have 30 days to decide on the deal, and most observers expect it to pass.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that now that the Biden administration has agreed to comprehensively investigate India’s assassination plot on American soil, he has ended the “hold” on the agreement.

Ben Cardin said: “The Biden administration requires that this conspiracy in the United States be investigated and held accountable, and that India be held accountable for such activities.” “

This notification puts the arms sales plan back on track, but there may still be twists and turns in Congress. The assassination accusations against India still affect the U.S.-India relationship in the shadows,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center.

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Kugelman added that in such partnerships, “strategic imperatives tend to prevail,” which would likely ensure that the arms sales ultimately go through, but the possibility of problems along the way cannot be ruled out.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said that the United States is following its “internal procedures” on arms sales and declined further comment.

In addition, the Indian government said on Thursday that it will continue to increase investment in building roads near the Chinese border and will spend 30% more than originally planned in this fiscal year, citing tensions between India and China. India and China have been in a military standoff since July 2020, when at least 24 Indian and Chinese soldiers were killed in serious clashes.

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