25 June 2017 | | Dawn
“The Trump administration has authorised the sale of unarmed surveillance drones to India but the White House says the deal does not threaten Pakistan’s security.
On Friday afternoon, a US arms manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems In said the Trump administration had approved the sale of a naval variant of the Predator drone to India. The deal involves the sale of 22 unarmed drones, worth more than $2 billion.
But the senior White House official who briefed the media on Mr Modi’s visit urged Pakistan to engage in direct talks with India to de-escalate tensions.
“We want to avoid a situation that escalates the tension” the official said. “Some of the defence systems we’re talking about we don’t believe impact Pakistan.”
Diplomatic observers in Washington fear the sale will further enlarge the existing strategic imbalance in the region, increasing Islamabad’s dependence on non-conventional means to strengthen its defence.
India, however, claims that it wants the drones for surveillance of the Indian Ocean as the presence of a Chinese naval base in Djibouti poses new threats for New Delhi. The Trump administration too sees India as a key ally in countering China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere.
“We are pleased that the US government has cleared the way for the sale of MQ-9B Guardian to the Indian government,” Linden Blue, CEO of the manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems said.