US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves drone deal with India

Image representing the bilateral US-India relationship. PHOTO

Washington, DC [US], February 3: The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Friday Feb. 2, 2024, approved the sale of MG-9 drones to India, saying the “US-India partnership plays a key role in Indo-Pacific stability.”

The approval comes a day after the US State Department approved the sale of 31 armed drones, missiles, and other equipment to India for $4 billion.

The Biden administration on Thursday informed the US Congress on its plan to sell 31 MQ-9B drones to India. The deal was announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June 2023.

Now, for the deal to commence, a Congressional nod is required, and a Letter of Approval (LOA) will be sent to India after 30 days following the approval of the procurement by the Congress. The process also involves price negotiations after the LOA is formally sent to India.

US Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement on his approval of the sale of MQ-9 drones to India, following assurances from the administration about steps taken to address recent allegations of transnational repression.

“My approval of this sale was the result of months of painstaking discussions with the Biden administration,” he said.

“The US-India partnership plays a key role in Indo-Pacific stability, including through regional mechanisms such as the Quad. I support deepening our bilateral relationship with India as long as that partnership is based on mutual trust and respect,” the US Senator added.

Highlighting human rights and democratic values globally as one of his top priorities, Cardin added, “Progress on these issues requires difficult discussions about our own democracy, as well as discussions with our closest allies and friends. I will continue raising human rights issues with the Administration, as well as with our Indian counterparts because I believe that our shared values are fundamental to the growth and longevity of our partnership.”

He added that he has conveyed his concerns to the Biden administration regarding the “timing of this sale to administration officials in light of the alleged murder-for-hire plot involving Indian officials to attempt to assassinate an American citizen on US soil.”

“I have been assured by the administration that the Indian government is committed to thoroughly investigating the situation and fully cooperating with the US Department of Justice investigation so that there is credible accountability in this case. As the Chairman of this committee, I fully intend to hold the administration to these commitments,” the US Senator said in the statement.

On Thursday, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, while shedding light on the recently approved foreign military sale of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft to India, said, “I cannot give a timeline. This was the initial step today. Notifying Congress of the exact timeline of the delivery is something that we will explore with the government of India over the coming months.”

Highlighting the significance of the deal, Miller emphasised, “Almost $4 billion sale of 31 MQ-9B Sky Guardian aircraft will provide India with enhanced maritime security and maritime domain awareness capability. It offers India outright ownership and a 16-fold increase in the number of aircraft as compared to their current lease.”

The defense security cooperation agency, which is an agency within the US Department of Defense, said in a press release on Thursday that the sale helps strengthen the US-Indian Strategic Relationship.



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