India's keenness to acquire the armed Predator drones from the United States received a new push during Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's recent trip to Washington D.C. and to Pentagon, with the Indian side asking for technical specification of the drone.
"We have asked for detailed technical specifications of the Predator and have said that the payload (weapons package) can be discussed at a later stage," ET quoted a source aware of the Indo-U.S. talks.
India is seeking information on the technical specifications of Predator's "hard points," where the weapons are mounted. The armed Predator drones fall in the ambit of high-end technology and the U.S. has not been eager to sell it the same way it has shown its keenness for other military hardware.
India's renewed bid comes in the backdrop of the country being formally accepted into the elite 35 nation grouping of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an informal grouping to prevent the proliferation of missile and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology over 500 kg payload and with range of more than 300 km.
The Predator drone has proved its mettle by neutralising terrorists in the lawless areas of Afghanistan-Pakistan border. If India is able to acquire the armed drones, it will augment Indian Air Force's offensive capability in taking out terrorist training grounds in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) or those near the Indo-Myanmar border.
If India has to acquire the high-end technology, India might have to sign two foundational U.S. agreements -- Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) -- considered essential for technology exchange. But India has not been keen to sign these due to concerns among the Armed Forces and opposition parties.
Nevertheless, the U.S. has already offered an unnamed Predator drone for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance missions for an Indian Navy requirement.