The US today announced final clearance for the sale of 22 Guardian drones - unarmed naval variants of the Predator drones - to India, as President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged today to deepen defence and security cooperation between the two countries.
The deal, which is estimated to be worth $2-3 billion, is being termed as a "game-changer" for bilateral ties between the two nations (See: India set to get 22 unarmed Guardian naval drones from US).
The US and India look forward to working together on advanced defence equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of America's closest allies and partners, said a joint statement issued after the India-US Summit at the White House.
"President Trump and Prime Minister Modi pledged to deepen defence and security cooperation, building on the United States' recognition of India as a major defence partner.
"Reflecting the partnership, the US has offered for India's consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems, which would enhance India's capabilities and promote shared security interests," the joint statement said.
Resolving to expand their maritime security cooperation, they announced their intention to build on the implementation of their "White Shipping" data sharing arrangement, which enhances collaboration on maritime domain awareness.
Trump welcomed PM Modi's strong support for the US to join as an observer in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.
Noting the importance of the upcoming MALABAR naval exercise (involving the US, Japan and India), the leaders determined to expand their engagements on shared maritime objectives and to explore new exercises.
In a late night statement, the White House said completion of the drone sales would increase bilateral defence trade to nearly $19 billion, supporting thousands of US jobs.
"If selected, United States offer to sell F-16 and F/A-18 fighter aircraft to India would represent the most significant defence cooperation between the US and India to date," the White House said.
According to the White House, the United States remains a reliable provider of advanced defence articles in support of India's military modernisation efforts.
United States-sourced defence articles, including the Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial System, Apache attack helicopters, and C-17 aircraft will further enhance the capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces and provide additional opportunities for interoperability, it said.
The US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) remains the premier forum for deepening collaboration on defence co-development and co-production, the statement said. The seven DTTI Joint Working Groups continue to discuss a range of technologies and platforms for potential co- development, including India's participation in the Future Vertical Lift program, it added.
DTTI representatives met most recently in April. Key military and civilian defence leaders continue to meet via reciprocal counterpart visits and strategic and policy dialogues, promoting closer service ties and improving interoperability among our forces, the White House said.
The annual MALABAR naval exercise, occurring in July in the Indian Ocean, will be the most complex to date, including participants from the US Navy, Indian Navy, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force.