New Delhi: India will be making a fast track purchase of six Predator-B drones, also known as the Soleimani Killer drones from the United States. The decision has been taken because of the rising tension with China and moves for the purchase have already started. More importantly, the United States relaxed the norms governing the purchase of these drones on Friday. The United States also indicated its exit from the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), to enable its allies to purchase the drones. As per experts, this US decision has been taken to allow the sale of these armed drones to India and its allies in the Gulf.
It has been reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the Chinese military to improve the capabilities in drone warfare. Tremendous tension is reigning on the India-China border, following the Galwan incident. The defence forces have been ordered to be ready for any eventuality. Against this background, weapons purchases for the defence forces have been increased. The United States, France, Israel, Russia have expedited the supply processes for the weapon systems purchased from them. Under the same initiative, Predator-B drones are being acquired from the United States.
The proposal was already under consideration to purchase these Predator-B drones, which were used very effectively in Iraq and Afghanistan by the United States. India had expressed interest in buying 30 Predator-B drones from the United States. But the US rules governing the sale of sensitive technology are stringent. Moreover, the MTCR regulations were an obstacle in the sale of missile clad drones. But now, the United States has relaxed the rules governing the export of sensitive technology and made the sale of drones to India and its other allies possible. The United States has also indicated exiting from the MTCR for this purpose. Therefore, the doors for purchase of these drones have been opened for India.
Realising that purchase of 30 Predator-B drones will take time, moves to purchase only six drones have been started initially. As per reports, the purchase of these drones will be fast-tracked. This drone, capable of carrying out surveillance flying at 800 kilometres per hour, also can hit the enemy target precisely from thousands of feet in the air. Two Predator-B drones each will be purchased for Army, Navy and Airforce.
It had been reported a few days ago that China was giving Pakistan its armed Wing Long drones under the pretext of security of the CPEC project. It has also been reported that China has supplied these Wing Long drones to Yemen and Libya. The MTCR agreement came into existence to stop a dangerous arms race starting in the world. 35 countries, including India and the United States, are a part of this agreement. These countries cannot sell lethal technology. China is not a subscriber to MTCR. Therefore, there are no restrictions on China to sell armed drones. China is taking undue advantage of this fact. Thus, given the altered scenario, the United States has indicated withdrawal from the MTCR agreement.
It is claimed that India will be the biggest beneficiary of this US decision. This will help India to purchase Predator-B and Global Hawk surveillance drones from the United States.
Meanwhile, the process of purchasing six additional P-8I aeroplanes, capable of long-range surveillance and targeting submarines, has been started. This purchase has the background of the growing Chinese naval movements in the Indian Ocean, and the deal will be worth USD 1.8 billion. Eight P-8I Poseidon aircrafts having electronic jamming facility have already been inducted in the Indian Navy in 2016. Whereas, four more P-8Is will join the fleet in the next year. Over and above, India will be purchasing six more P-8I aeroplanes.