The US State Department has given its approval for the potential sale of military equipment, including 31 armed drones, missiles, and other items, to India at a value of nearly $4 billion.
The deal, initially announced during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June 2023, had faced a delay in December when a Senate committee put it on hold due to an investigation into an alleged Indian plot to assassinate an individual on US soil.
The approved deal comprises the sale of 31 MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones, 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles, 310 laser small diameter bombs, along with communications and surveillance equipment, and a precision glide bomb.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is designated as the primary contractor for the agreement. The sale’s confirmation is contingent on approval from the US Congress.
Senator Ben Cardin, who had placed a hold on the deal pending the investigation into the alleged assassination plot, has now lifted the hold after the US government committed to a comprehensive investigation. The alleged plot involved an Indian conspiracy to assassinate an American citizen advocating for Khalistan, an independent Sikh state.
“The [Biden] administration has demanded that there be an investigation and accountability in regards to the plot here in the United States, and that there is accountability within India against these types of activities,” Senator Cardin stated.
Last year, the US accused Delhi of involvement in the plot, triggering a denial from India’s foreign ministry, which also expressed its commitment to investigating the allegations and addressing the US government’s security concerns.
The Pentagon has emphasized that the proposed drone deal with India will contribute to strengthening the strategic relationship between the two nations and align with the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States.