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Kerry asked to approve sale of Guardian drones to India

world Updated: Sep 14, 2016 13:29 IST
Yashwant Raj
John Kerry

Two top US senators have asked the US secretary of state John Kerry to approve with “utmost urgency” India’s request to buy unarmed Guardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System.(Reuters File Photo)

Calling India a “close ally”, two top US Senators on Monday supported India’s proposal to buy Guardian remotely piloted aircraft systems — RPAS, or drones — and urged Secretary of State John Kerry to process the request with “utmost urgency”.

India officially made the request for 22 RPAS for its navy shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit in June, when India was declared a “major defence partner”.

Guardian system, currently deployed with the US department of homeland security, “is the only RPAS that would fulfil India’s maritime security and maritime domain awareness (MDA — loosely, keeping an eye on Chinese maritime presence in the region) requirement”, Democrat senator Mark Warner and Republican senator John Cornyn said in a joint letter.

Warner and Cornyn, who are co-chairs of the India caucus in the senate, said they were aware that the request of sale of sensitive technology such as Guardian is covered by a “strong presumption” of denial.

But, they added, “we strongly feel that the export of this unarmed, surveillance-only platform, which would be used by a close ally in a manner that supports US national security interests, presents a convincing case to allow for overcoming that presumption.”

The state department has to sign on for the project to go through.

“Guardian would aid the Indian Navy in meeting a vast spectrum of maritime security and maritime domain awareness challenges, such as maintaining freedom of navigation, maritime search and rescue, protection of commercial activity and disaster response,” the senators wrote.

The latter to Kerry came days after the issue was discussed by defence minister Manohar Parrikar with the US defence secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon on August 30.

“The maritime environment in which the Indian Navy operates is both vast and diverse. Guardian provides persistent 360-degrees wide areas surveillance and is capable of operating at high altitudes, avoiding changing and unpredictable weather patterns over the Indian Ocean and beyond,” the senators wrote.