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World
23 Jun 2017

Ahead of Modi's visit, US okays surveillance drone deal

A push to Indo-US defence ties

Ahead of PM Narendra Modi's Washington visit, the US has approved the sale of 22 Guardian drones to India, government sources said.

The "game changer" deal is estimated to be worth $2-3bn. Though the State Department has reportedly conveyed it to New Delhi, an official announcement is expected soon.

The Indian Navy had requested the unarmed surveillance drones last year.

In context

A push to Indo-US defence ties

Status

Amid bleak ties, a push for the Guardian drones deal

Recently, both sides upped efforts to clear a deal for unarmed Guardian drones. Some US officials believe it would advance American-interests.

Reportedly, the White House and Congress are in support, but the State Department is still undecided.

If New Delhi gets the drones, it would be the first such purchase by a non-NATO country. New Delhi is prioritizing them over "all the other items".

Concerns

But no armed drones for India?

Earlier, the US rejected requests for missile-firing Predator Avenger. It is reportedly concerned about the potential destabilization in the region, particularly of Indo-Pak ties, if high-tech drones are brought in.

The State Department is also concerned that if India secures the unarmed drones, it will renew its push for armed ones.

US' recent criticism of India over the Paris Agreement might strain progress.

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What else is expected during Modi's visit?

On his visit, Modi is expected to discuss the H-1B visa program, which was recently tightened by the Trump administration. The American president will also host a dinner for him. The entire affair is expected to be low-key, compared to his previous grand visit.

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