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India Resists U.S. Pressure to Buy Armed Drones as Trump Looks for Foreign Policy ‘Wins’

undercover JIX

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India Resists U.S. Pressure to Buy Armed Drones as Trump Looks for Foreign Policy ‘Wins’
Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper pushed armed MQ-9 Reaper drones during a high-profile summit in India this week as Trump enters the waning days of his reelection bid.


By Paul D. Shinkman, Senior Writer, National Security Oct. 29, 2020, at 4:19 p.m.
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U.S. News & World Report
India Resists U.S. Pressure to Buy Drones
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An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flies by during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base on November 17, 2015 in Indian Springs, Nevada. The Pentagon has plans to expand combat air patrols flights by remotely piloted aircraft by as much as 50 percent over the next few years to meet an increased need for surveillance, reconnaissance and lethal airstrikes in more areas around the world.

An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flies by during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base, Nov. 17, 2015, in Indian Springs, Nev.(ISAAC BREKKEN/GETTY IMAGES)

THE U.S. PRESSURED India to purchase sophisticated armed drones during a high-level meeting between top officials this week but was not successful, officials confirm to U.S. News, robbing President Donald Trump of a sought-after foreign policy "win" in the waning days of his reelection bid.

The State Department has already cleared the way for India to purchase MQ-9 Reaper drones, which have become prolific in American-led counterterrorism wars and which U.S. officials believe would perform a critical role in better preparing India's army for the kind of deadly border clashes with China that have escalated in recent months.

Multiple current officials speaking on the condition of anonymity confirm that the sale was at the top of the agenda for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper going into their trip to India earlier this week to meet with their local counterparts, the latest in a series of high-profile summits known as the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
However, India, at least for now, refused.
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The sale, like many weapons deals the president has previously touted, would have served as a sterling example of the domestic and foreign policy doctrine Trump has espoused. It would enable another country to carry out a White House foreign policy goal, in this case the foundational promise Trump has stressed in recent weeks of deterring and containing China. And following the Air Force's announcement earlier this year it plans to transition away from relying on the MQ-9 as it prepares for its own potential confrontations with Russia and China, a new deal with an economic powerhouse like India would secure American jobs at the General Atomics assembly plant for the Reaper in California.

It would also serve as a symbolic step toward incorporating more American hardware into India's arsenal and move away from the Russian and Soviet equipment that currently comprises much of it – a key goal of the Pentagon's as it continues to court a greater alliance with the South Asian powerhouse.
"For a customer like India, we get a strategic bang for our buck and at the same time we get the economic benefits," says Karl Kaltenthaler, a professor at the University of Akron who frequently advises various elements of the U.S. government on drone policy and other security matters. "This is a good story in that we're keeping American jobs, we're sticking it to China."

Pushing for an MQ-9 sale to India also meets a set of requirements that have become a new reality for the national security elements of the government during this administration: It achieves a goal set by the Pentagon, is easy to sell the president and does not conflict with Trump's vision of the world or his style of leadership.
"For the Trump administration, this issue is much more a political one rather than a strategic one," Kaltenthaler says. "And this is one of those cases where Trump's incentives or motivations for doing this don't conflict with the Pentagon."

It was not immediately clear why the Indian government declined the U.S. offer at this time, and its Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to requests for comment.
However, multiple sources familiar with the discussions and speaking on the condition of anonymity cited the expense of these drones – which as of last year cost roughly $16 million each. They also say New Delhi plans to hold out for a larger and more comprehensive arms package at some point in the future, but certainly not before Election Day next week.

The State Department declined to answer questions on-record about why it was so eager for India to agree to the sale, or criticism that the timing of the U.S. pressure amounted to an attempt to grant Trump a foreign policy "win" in the lead-up to next week's election.
A spokesperson speaking on the condition of anonymity says the U.S has "strived to meet India's defense requirements in recent years," and noted that "defense trade has increased significantly over the past two decades."

"As of 2020 the United States has authorized more than $20 billion in defense sales to India," the spokesperson says, adding that the country maintains the largest fleets of C-17 and P-8 aircraft outside of the United States.

At the summit this week, the four senior officials signed a much-anticipated Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, a significant achievement that formalizes future military and intelligence cooperation between the two powers.

And Esper indicated in public remarks that the prospect of drone sales in the future, as well as other military equipment, remains a likelihood.
"Our defense trade and technology cooperation continues to grow, as reflected in India's acquisition of Apache and Seahawk helicopters earlier this year," the defense secretary said at a press conference with the other officials. "We look forward to advancing sales for other key defense platforms, including fighter aircraft and unmanned aerial systems."

Trump has made arms sales a central component of his foreign policy and routinely boasts about how he perceives their benefit. Early in his administration, Trump sped up the approval process for arms sales abroad by reducing oversight, prompting widespread concern. In April 2019, Trump withdrew from an international weapons pact that had previously bolstered efforts to limit the spread of arms globally, saying it undermined American sovereignty.

In May, the president said that "over a million" American jobs were created by billions of dollars worth of new arms sales to Saudi Arabia that wrought scrutiny amid Riyadh's troubling human rights record. Defense News reported at the time the number of new jobs was likely between 20,000 and 40,000.

 

ozranger

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Probably just because there is no commission promised by the American company yet or, due to the pandemic, there is no chance to create oversea visits for the Indian negotiators.
 

CrazyZ

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You mean kickbacks, right? More difficult to get them on US deals because of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Deal will have to be financed in dollars. Pandemic has surged India's debt to GDP ratio so American banks will demand high interest rates. Deal was announced for political reasons....when numbers were crunched looks like India bean counters want to back out. In line with my thesis presented in other posts....expect Indian talk of defence deals only for nothing to materialize over the next few years.
 

CrazyZ

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Very much another “could have been”, “should have been”, “might have been” etc. type case!!! Indians military officers are good at English Grammar...
USA even stretched its own rules on drone technology export to accommodate the Indian request :hitwall:. USA defense industry has been spoiled by the gulf countries and the pentagon that cut a check and don't care about the numbers. India has been spoiled by its deals with Israel and Russia that were on very good lending terms. I think for the S400 deal...Russia even accepted payment in INR (Russia is trying diversy away from holding dollars). New besty's are still trying to know one another.
 

Dark1

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Our adversaries especially China have substantial EW capabilities and radar coverage . The recent successes in drone warfare have come against much weaker opposition.
The Americans also use these drones against weakly defended targets. For heavily defended areas , they prefer their stealth planes.
The option should be these slow moving drones or a few stealth fighters.
If India wants to absorb a completely new platform, why not take the plunge with f35s ?
Usa has just cleared f35 for uae , India should invest a bit more and ask for the f35.
That will be a game changer.
 

Surya 1

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Deal will have to be financed in dollars. Pandemic has surged India's debt to GDP ratio so American banks will demand high interest rates. Deal was announced for political reasons....when numbers were crunched looks like India bean counters want to back out. In line with my thesis presented in other posts....expect Indian talk of defence deals only for nothing to materialize over the next few years.
India has become trade surplus economomy in last 2 Quarters. Our foreign exchange is surging rapidly. INR is set to appreciate and hence reducing the foreign exchange repayment burden. Solid Foundation is laid for the robust develop.
 

CrazyZ

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India has become trade surplus economomy in last 2 Quarters. Our foreign exchange is surging rapidly. INR is set to appreciate and hence reducing the foreign exchange repayment burden. Solid Foundation is laid for the robust develop.
True but almost all defense deals are done through borrowing usually financed by the selling country. RBI doesn't sell reserves for defense purchases. High price plus high interest rates killed the deal.
 

Dark1

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True but almost all defense deals are done through borrowing usually financed by the selling country. RBI doesn't sell reserves for defense purchases. High price plus high interest rates killed the deal.
Totally wrong . No such borrowing to buy arms.
 

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