- Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security assistant, arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday to finish making plans for Modi's visit.
- The MQ-9B SeaGuardian is used by or has been used by the United States, India, Australia, and Japan, which are all members of the Quad.
Before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to Washington, the Biden administration is pushing New Delhi to get rid of its own bureaucracy and move forward with a deal for dozens of armed drones made in the U.S., according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
India has said for a long time that it wants to buy big, armed drones from the US. But organizational problems have kept a deal for SeaGuardian drones, which could be worth between $2 billion and $3 billion, from happening for years.
US officials are hoping that Narendra Modi’s visit to the White House on June 22 will break the deadlock.
Since the date for Modi’s visit was set, the US State Department, Pentagon, and White House have asked India to “show” progress on the deal for up to 30 armed MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones made by General Atomics, two sources said.
Sources say that Modi and Biden will also talk about making weapons and ground vehicles together, like armored personnel carriers, while Modi is in Washington.
The White House, the Department of State, and the Pentagon all refused to say anything about the talks.
U.S. President Joe Biden has made strengthening ties with India a key part of his plan to counter China’s growing influence. This year, despite not having a formal security alliance, the world’s two largest democracies are working together on advanced military technologies.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, New Delhi has kept some defense and economic links with Russia, which has angered Washington. New Delhi is often proud of not taking sides in conflicts between big countries.
Breaking India’s bureaucratic stalemate on drones depends on an internal meeting to make a “Acceptance of Necessity” document. This is India’s version of an official “Letter of Request” that starts the foreign military sale process. Sources didn’t know as of Tuesday if New Delhi had made the needed internal paper.
A top source in the Biden administration said, “The government of India will have to decide on that.” “We think it would be good for them to go ahead and buy MQ-9s. But India has a bit more control over these choices than we do.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security assistant, arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday to finish making plans for Modi’s visit. This was expected to be on the agenda.
A person familiar with the talks said that India’s defense minister still hadn’t decided how many drones it wants to buy as of last week. At first, the number was thought to be 30, but then it was changed to 24, and then to 18 last month. Sources said that none of the numbers was set in stone.
India also wants some parts of the equipment to be made in India, which could make it harder to make a deal.
The MQ-9B SeaGuardian is used by or has been used by the United States, India, Australia, and Japan, which are all members of the Quad. India is currently renting MQ-9Bs as part of a mission to gather information.