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Drones request

Washington: The Donald Trump administration is “considering” Delhi’s request for armed drones for the Indian Air Force, weeks after approving the sale of high-tech unarmed guardian drones to India.

“Yes, yes,” a senior administration official told PTI when asked about India’s pending request about the purchase of armed drones as part of the country’s drive to modernise its armed forces.

The armed drones, the IAF believes, would help it strengthen its defence capabilities.

Early this year, the IAF had requested the US government for General Atomics Predator C Avenger aircraft. It is understood that the IAF would need 80 to 100 units, making it approximately an $8-billion deal.

In June, the US announced it would sell 22 unarmed Guardian drones to India, which would add to the Indian Navy’s surveillance capabilities in the Indian Ocean region, during a successful meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump at the White House.

“We are at ways to, in terms of foreign military sales, but really also in defence cooperation, broadly how to strengthen our relationship and cooperation,” the official said, responding to questions on India’s quest for high-tech defence equipment and technology from the US.

The Obama administration had designated India as a major defence partner and the Trump government has accelerated the process of considering Delhi’s requests. Last week, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson had said that in keeping with India’s status as a major defence partner and their mutual interest in expanding maritime cooperation, the Trump administration had offered Delhi a menu of defence options, although he didn’t mention armed drones. PTI

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