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The U.S. State Department on Thursday approved a nearly $4 billion drone sale to India, a deal that emerged during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington last year.
Congress has received the notification for India’s pending purchase of 31 MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The notification triggers a 30-day congressional review period on Capitol Hill.
“The U.S.-India defense partnership has seen significant growth over the past decade,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said a press briefing on Wednesday, noting the sale “offers significant potential to further advance strategic technology cooperation with India and military cooperation in the region.”
The Biden administration has sought to court India as part of its efforts to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region while prying it away from Russia, New Delhi’s leading arms supplier. India also seeks to develop its own indigenous defense-industrial base. A December Congressional Research Service report noted that India is the world’s largest arms importer by value.
In addition to the drone sale, Modi’s visit to Washington in June resulted in a spate of other agreements, such as a deal between General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. to jointly produce fighter jet engines.
Micron Technology, an American semiconductor firm, also pledged to spend upward of $2.75 billion on construction of an assembly and test facility in India. In addition, the U.S. and India kick-started negotiations for a reciprocal defense procurement arrangement to coordinate the exchange and development of military technology.
In May 2022, the two countries launched the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology to enhance cooperation in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and semiconductors.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.