In­dia tries to has­ten US de­fense deals amid elec­tion un­cer­tainty

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In­dia is try­ing to has­ten a deal with the United States to buy Preda­tor drone air­craft for mil­i­tary sur­veil­lance, one of sev­eral de­fence and nu­clear projects the two sides are pur­su­ing in the fi­nal months of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In­dia’s re­quest for 22 Preda­tor Guardian drones made in June is in an ad­vanced stage of ne­go­ti­a­tions. The two sides hope to make enough progress so only ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks re­main by the time Pres­i­dent Barack Obama leaves of­fice, govern­ment of­fi­cials in New Delhi said. “It is pro­gress­ing well. The aim is to com­plete the main process in the next few months,” said one of the of­fi­cials, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity.

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has built per­sonal ties with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, whose sig­na­ture for­eign pol­icy move has been a strate­gic pivot to Asia from the Mid­dle East. The United States has dis­lodged Rus­sia as the top arms sup­plier to In­dia. New Delhi is also on the cusp of seal­ing a US nu­clear re­ac­tor deal worth bil­lions of dol­lars.

In re­turn, Wash­ing­ton has given New Delhi ac­cess to high-end mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy, such as a new sys­tem to launch planes off air­craft car­ri­ers, and leaned on other coun­tries to give In­dia mem­ber­ship in the Mis­sile Tech­nol­ogy Con­trol Regime, which cleared the way for the sale of the un­armed Preda­tor.

In­dia’s mil­i­tary has also asked for the armed ver­sion of the Preda­tor to help tar­get sus­pected mil­i­tant camps in Pak­istan but US ex­port con­trol laws pro­hibit such a trans­fer. US De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter, who vis­ited In­dia in April, is ex­pected to make a fi­nal trip there towards the end of the year.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion is eager to get as much done as is hu­manly pos­si­ble. They be­lieve the con­di­tions and the per­son­nel in both cap­i­tals are uniquely fa­vor­able at the mo­ment, and are eager to con­sol­i­date and in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize the progress,” said Jeff Smith, di­rec­tor of Asia Se­cu­rity Pro­grams at the Amer­i­can For­eign Pol­icy Coun­cil. —Reuters

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