India will look to acquire lethal predator drones from the United States during Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to Washington this week as New Delhi looks to ramp up its counterterrorism operations and to counter the growing relationship between its neighbors Pakistan and China.
Parrikar is scheduled to meet with his American counterpart Ash Carter on Monday marking the sixth meeting between the two defense ministers. The two parties are also expected to sign an extensive defense pact wherein the two parties agree to support one another militarily.
In the past, the United States has refused to provide armed predator drones to India, which have been used in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, for fear that New Delhi would turn the weapons against the Pakistanis at a time when Washington sought robust cooperation in the fight against al-Qaeda.
However, with the geopolitical landscape having shifted in recent years towards battling against Daesh in addition to a historically close relationship between Washington and New Delhi in a bid to contain China, the United States has signaled a willingness to provide India with lethal unmanned aerial vehicles.
India formally applied for membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June of 2015, and with the support of the United States and France became a member on June 27, 2016 which also increased the likelihood that Washington would be willing to engage in sharing of drone technology with India under the controlled protocols of the regime.
The Defense Minister is expected to point to Paksistan’s inaction against militant groups like Lashkar-eTaibi (LeT) and Jaish-eMuhammad (JeM) that pose a direct threat to the national security of India in order to justify the transfer of drone technology.
In addition to looking to acquire drone technology from the United States, India is hoping to convince Washington to provide New Delhi with the rights to manufacture an American fighter jet under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s "Make in India" initiative.