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India’s proposal to buy Predator drones from US still on backburner

The proposed Indian acquisition of Predator drones from the US is still on the backburner as the Government is keen to make it in the country itself (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@@Parthu_Potluri)

The proposed Indian acquisition of Predator drones from the US is still on the backburner as the Narendra Modi government is giving precedence to achieving self-reliance under its ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ policy in the military hardware sector.

A Hindustan Times report cited diplomats in Washington and New Delhi as saying that they had still not got any green signal from the government to move ahead with the proposal.

“The decision to move the proposal through the ‘pre-acceptance of necessity’ (AON) stage, and Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) will be done only after the green signal from the government,” the Hindustan Times report states.

This week a report by news agency PTI quoted Dr Vivek Lall, CEO of General Atomics, as saying India is in ‘advanced stage of negotiations’ with the US for acquisition of 30 MQ 9B drones to crank up surveillance capabilities.

While the acquisition of the Predators – if it takes place – from the US through foreign military sales route will be a political decision, the potential battle scenario has now moved on to armed drones with countries like China and Pakistan acquiring these weapon systems.

A proven and capable system, the Predator also carries an exorbitant price tag and could cost India over $3 billion if approved.

While India is looking for an armed drone it would not like to spend huge amounts for purely a surveillance drone as the country already has the Israeli Heron upgraded drone for the Indian military at much cheaper costs.

“Although the Modi government stands committed to developing armed drones through the indigenous route, the matter has acquired urgency with China developing armed drones with both turbo-prop and turbo-fan engines at a rapid pace. It has also supplied Pakistan with the armed turbo-prop version of Wing Loong II drones, while Islamabad is also looking towards Turkey for acquisition of much cheaper but effective Bayraktar TB 2 drone,” senior Hindustan Times journalist Shishir Gupta has stated in the report.

It is a matter of concern to India that Turkey, which still thrives on its Ottoman legacy of the past, is involved in upgrading Pakistani weapon systems including submarines.

India, in the meantime, has upgraded its Israeli Heron drones with better data link and firepower giving it the capability to use unmanned aerial vehicles to fight the enemy.