During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the United States, several key subjects of discussion will include the purchase of armed drones, the transfer of high-tech technology, and matters related to the Indo-Pacific region.
The Indian Navy is actively working to extend the lease of two Sea Guardian surveillance drones manufactured by General Atomics, which are currently stationed at the Rajali Naval Base in Tamil Nadu. In line with the collaborative efforts of the Quad nations in the Indo-Pacific, India intends to expedite the acquisition of armed drones from the United States.
While the final decision on the purchase of armed Predator drones (MQ-9B) will depend on pricing considerations, the Indian Navy is satisfied with the performance of the Sea Guardian drones, which have been leased for maritime domain surveillance since 2020. The endurance of these drones enables real-time domain awareness, covering a vast area from the eastern coast of Africa and the Gulf of Aden to the Sunda Straits in Indonesia and beyond. In fact, these leased drones were instrumental in monitoring the Chinese build-up along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) following the People’s Liberation Army’s incursion into East Ladakh in May 2020.
During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US on June 22, discussions regarding the purchase of armed drones, technology transfer, and the Indo-Pacific region will feature prominently. The visit will also include the celebration of International Yoga Day on June 21 and a diaspora event in Chicago, preceding a state dinner. The preparations for this visit, considered a game-changer, were previously discussed during conversations between PM Modi and US President Joe Biden, as well as in a bilateral meeting between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on the sidelines of the G-7 summit.
The increasing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean, expected as early as 2025, has prompted concerns. China has leveraged its relationships with countries like Pakistan, Cambodia, Myanmar, Iran, and nations along Africa’s eastern shore. In countering this threat, armed drones have become a crucial military tool for maintaining security and surveillance in the region. Recognizing their significance, India aims to enhance its capabilities in this area.