Jet engines, drones, special trade benefits expected from Modi-Biden talks

India and the US are expected to ink the deal for the acquisition of 31 Predator drones and will purchase 16 MQ 9B armed Sea Guardians as part of Modi's state visit.
MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a predator drone, manufactured by defence technology company General Atomics. (Photo | Wikimedia commons)
MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a predator drone, manufactured by defence technology company General Atomics. (Photo | Wikimedia commons)

WASHINGTON: The US has cleared the joint production of GE's F 414A jet engines in India giving a "new" direction to ties between the two countries, a senior White House official told reporters on the eve of President Joe Biden's official state dinner for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India will announce the purchase of General Atomics' 16 MQ 9B armed Sea Guardians, the official said, ending protracted negotiations that lasted almost seven years.

Detailed outcomes of Prime Minister Modi's first state visit to the US at the invitation of President Biden will only be available after the meeting of the two leaders on Thursday.

A joint statement that will be issued by the two sides is also likely to include the reinstatement of preferential trading benefits for Indian exports to the US under a scheme called the Generalized System of Preferences, which was suspended by the administration of former President Donald Trump in 2018.

The two sides are expected to announce a slew of joint initiatives and agreements after Biden's meeting with Modi on Thursday morning, in a new spirit of cooperation between the two sides that was described by officials who were part of the negotiations as "mature."

In addition to official engagements, Prime Minister Modi is also scheduled to have several interactions with leading CEOs, professionals, and other stakeholders.

India and the US are expected to ink the deal for the acquisition of 31 Predator drones during the course of Modi's maiden state visit to the US.

India shares vast maritime and land boundaries with two major adversaries -- Pakistan and China -- and requires constant monitoring of their activities to safeguard its national security interests.

The Predators, also called the MQ-9 Reaper, can fly up to 36 hours at a stretch and can be used for focused monitoring of any specific point or area of interest.

As many as 31 Predator drones, to be acquired by India from the US soon, would be operated by the tri-services jointly. Speaking to ANI, a senior defence official said, "The decision to buy 31 (Predator or Reaper) drones for taking care of complete surveillance requirements was taken after a scientific assessment."

"The Predator drones would be operated by a joint tri-services command, which will include officers and men from all three services. The proposal in this regard in the defence acquisition council was also sent by the tri-services headquarters," the official said.

Indian personnel would also, very soon, be provided training to deal with the ground-station equipment and the birds, both in both India and the US where it is manufactured.

A detailed scientific analysis was carried out by officers from the tri-services to arrive at the number of unmanned aerial vehicles of this long endurance variety.

"The analysis done under the Chief of Defence Staff and his integrated defence staff team suggested that for looking after the land borders and the aerial surveillance, 16 birds (attack drones) would be required," the official added.

"For looking after the maritime borders and the islands, the study suggested that India would require 16 drones," the official said.

"All the future deals by the tri-services, including ones for helicopters, drones and air defence weapon systems, would be done in the same manner," the official added.

Chief Executive at General Atomics Global Corporation, Vivek Lall, on Wednesday, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's State visit to the US is "historic" and a "watershed moment" as India is all set to purchase the Predator drones manufactured by the company.

General Atomics is a defence and diversified technologies company that produces a series of unmanned aircraft (drones) and provides electro-optical, radar, signals intelligence, and automated airborne surveillance systems.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin India Private Limited Vice-President William Blair on Wednesday termed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US as "tremendous," and said the two countries are seeking the transfer of technology and collaboration for bringing cutting-edge aerospace tech to India.

"I think it's tremendous (PM Modi's visit)... And I think now coming out of COVID we're really poised for tremendous growth in this decade and beyond working together between US and India...I think on the eve of the engagements this week with PM Modi, we're seeing levels of transfer of technology, and collaboration, both in the country as well as working with our tier-one companies here in the US. It's tremendous, and I think we're going to take it to the next level. It's not just about acquisitions. It's about making in India and sustaining in India. And that's our commitment," Blair said while speaking to ANI during the INDUS X Summit in Washington, DC.

Secretary of US Air Force Frank Kendall during his keynote at INDUS X, said that the "strategic logic" of US-India is "imminently clear" and emphasizes that we have to "seize the moment."

(With inputs from IANS and ANI)


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