Is U.S. Arm Twisting India For The Big SeaGuardian Drones Deal?

The U.S. is reportedly pushing India to finalize a deal for dozens of MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones, worth up to $3 billion, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's state visit to Washington later this month.


Is U.S. Arm Twisting India For The Big SeaGuardian Drones Deal?


The SeaGuardian drones are advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can perform surveillance and strike missions over land and sea. They are capable of flying for over 40 hours at a time and carrying a variety of weapons, sensors and cameras.


India has expressed interest in acquiring 30 armed SeaGuardian drones from the U.S. since 2019, as part of its efforts to modernize its military and counter China's growing influence in the region. The deal would involve the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force each getting 10 drones.


However, the deal has been stalled by bureaucratic hurdles and red tape on both sides. India has not yet issued an official request for the drones, while the U.S. has not yet granted an export license for them.


According to sources familiar with the matter, the Biden administration is keen to break the impasse and seal the deal during Modi's visit on June 22. The U.S. State Department, Pentagon and White House have asked India to show progress on the deal and generate an "Acceptance of Necessity" document, which is a prerequisite for a formal request.


The sources said that Modi and Biden are also expected to discuss other aspects of defense cooperation, such as co-production of munitions and ground vehicles. The U.S. sees India as a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy and wants to deepen its ties with the world's largest democracy.


The deal would also benefit the U.S. defense industry, which has been facing competition from other countries such as Israel, France and China in the global drone market. General Atomics, the maker of the SeaGuardian drones, has been lobbying hard for the deal and has offered to set up a production facility in India.


The SeaGuardian drones would enhance India's capabilities in surveillance, reconnaissance and strike operations across its vast land and maritime borders. They would also complement India's existing fleet of Israeli-made Heron drones and its indigenous Rustom drones.


The deal would also signal a closer alignment between India and the U.S. on security issues, especially in the face of China's assertive behavior in the Indo-Pacific region. India and the U.S. are part of the Quad alliance, along with Japan and Australia, which aims to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.


The deal would also mark a shift in India's defense procurement policy, which has traditionally favored Russian-made weapons over Western ones. India is still one of the largest buyers of Russian arms, despite U.S. sanctions on Moscow.


However, some analysts have cautioned that the deal may not be as smooth as it seems. They have pointed out that India may face operational challenges in integrating the SeaGuardian drones with its existing platforms and systems. They have also warned that India may face political backlash from some of its neighbors and allies who may view the deal as a sign of aggression or alignment with the U.S.


The deal may also face legal hurdles in the U.S., where some lawmakers have raised concerns about human rights violations and civilian casualties caused by drone strikes in other countries. They have called for more oversight and transparency on drone exports and operations.


Despite these challenges, both sides are hopeful that the deal will go through and pave the way for more cooperation and trust between them. The deal would be a win-win situation for both countries, as they seek to enhance their security and prosperity in a changing world.


The deal would also be a testament to the strength and resilience of the U.S.-India relationship, which has overcome many obstacles and differences over the years. The deal would show that both countries are committed to working together for mutual benefit and common good.


FAQs Answered:-


Q: What are the SeaGuardian drones and what can they do?


A: The SeaGuardian drones are a variant of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones, which are developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, a US-based company. They are multi-mission unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can perform surveillance, reconnaissance and strike operations over land and sea. They can fly for over 40 hours at a time and carry a variety of weapons, sensors and cameras. They can operate in all weather conditions and have a wingspan of 24 meters.


The SeaGuardian drones are designed for maritime operations and have enhanced features such as anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, maritime search and rescue, and maritime domain awareness. They can also communicate with other platforms and systems through satellite links and data networks.


Q: Why does India want to buy the SeaGuardian drones from the US?


A: India wants to buy the SeaGuardian drones from the US for several reasons. First, India wants to modernize its military and enhance its capabilities in surveillance, reconnaissance and strike operations across its vast land and maritime borders. The SeaGuardian drones would complement India's existing fleet of Israeli-made Heron drones and its indigenous Rustom drones.


Second, India wants to counter China's growing influence and assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, especially in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The SeaGuardian drones would help India monitor China's naval activities and protect its interests and assets in the IOR. The SeaGuardian drones would also enable India to cooperate more closely with other countries in the region, such as the US, Japan and Australia, as part of the Quad alliance.


Third, India wants to diversify its defense procurement sources and reduce its dependence on Russian-made weapons. India is still one of the largest buyers of Russian arms, despite US sanctions on Moscow. Buying the SeaGuardian drones from the US would signal a closer alignment between India and the US on security issues and boost their strategic partnership.


Q: How much will the SeaGuardian drone deal cost and when will it be finalized?


A: The SeaGuardian drone deal is estimated to cost between $2 billion to $3 billion, depending on the number and specifications of the drones. India has expressed interest in acquiring 30 armed SeaGuardian drones from the US since 2019, as part of a tri-service requirement. The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force would each get 10 drones each with customized specifications.


However, the deal has been stalled by bureaucratic hurdles and red tape on both sides. India has not yet issued an official request for the drones, while the US has not yet granted an export license for them. The deal also requires approval from both countries' governments and legislatures.


According to sources familiar with the matter, the Biden administration is keen to break the impasse and seal the deal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's state visit to Washington later this month. The US State Department, Pentagon and White House have asked India to show progress on the deal and generate an "Acceptance of Necessity" document, which is a prerequisite for a formal request.


The sources said that Modi and Biden are also expected to discuss other aspects of defense cooperation, such as co-production of munitions and ground vehicles. The deal would also benefit the US defense industry, which has been facing competition from other countries such as Israel, France and China in the global drone market.

Next Post Previous Post
No Comment
Add Comment
comment url