Amid Ladakh tensions, China supplying armed drones to Pakistan
While China remains locked in an intense stand-off with India, it is supplying four armed drones to Pakistan, another hostile neighbor of New Delhi, a report in Hindustan Times said. This new development prompted India to renew its interest in Predator-B, a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) drone, made by the United States. Not only does Predator-B collect intelligence, but it also attacks targets diligently.
First, a bit about Indo-China tensions
Neighbors India and China hit a rough patch in their relationship after New Delhi upped its infrastructure projects in the tough Himalayan region. The hostility turned into a violent clash when China's People's Liberation Army attacked Indian troops at the Galwan Valley in mid-June. 20 Indian soldiers were martyred, however, China didn't release its casualty count. Subsequently, dialogue was launched to cool off tensions.
Seemingly, China and Pakistan are putting united front against India
Earlier, reports said Pakistan could see Indo-China tensions as an opportunity to spark unrest along Line of Control (LoC). It was also reported that Beijing is looking towards reviving terror groups, specializing in stirring troubles in Kashmir. China's new dispatch for Pakistan hints that both countries are working together against India. Meanwhile, people in the know said India can handle the "two-front war" situation.
Apparently, China is sending drones to Pakistan to "protect" corridor
The HT report said China will be sending two systems, each one having two drones and a ground station, to protect China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and PLA's navy base in Gwadar port. Besides, China is also planning to produce a military version of Wing Loong II, a drone designed for Pakistan's air force. The military version is called GJ-2 drones and China aims to produce 48 of them.
Nearly a dozen countries have already received these drones
China has already exported Wing Loong II drones to several countries like Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates between 2008 and 2018. The drones, which have 12 air-to-surface missiles, are employed by the UAE-backed forces in Libya. Unlike the US, which puts restrictions on the end-use of its weapons, China doesn't put any curbs.
India earlier sought unarmed versions of US-made drones
The close ties between China and Pakistan prompted India to apprise the US about its interest in the armed Predator-B drones. Earlier, the Indian Navy spoke to the US for an unarmed version of the drone, but national security planners opined it would be better to procure an all-in-one drone, rather than having separate ones for surveillance and attacks.
The drone can carry four Hell-Fire missiles, two laser-guided bombs
Currently, India uses Israeli Heron unarmed drones in the volatile Eastern Ladakh area, but the tensions with China forced New Delhi to think religiously about getting armed drones from the US. To note, the Predator-B drone has been used in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The drone is capable of carrying four Hell-Fire missiles and two laser-guided bombs, weighing 500 pounds.