India, the world's largest importer of arms, is in discussions to export defence equipment to the US and its allies in a major step forward in enhancing security ties. As part of the deal, the country will export drones and spy equipment to the US, said Bloomberg, quoting sources close to the matter.
The collaboration involves manufacturing AeroVinronment Inc.'s Raven drone and Lockheed Martin Corp.'s 'Roll On-Roll Off' kits in India and selling them in global markets. This equipment has the capacity to convert jumbo transport jets into surveillance aircraft.
The Raven is a lightweight hand-launched drone being used by military forces in about 20 countries to collect information.
The US agreed to produce drones and surveillance equipment jointly with India in January in a deal signed by both the countries during President Barack Obama's visit to New Delhi. Since there is limited potential for this equipment in India, the country is looking at exports to make manufacturing feasible, the sources said.
The joint production will help the US as the country is modernizing its defence investing $150 billion and also to counter the threat from China. On the other side, it will enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi create jobs and reduce the country's dependence on arms imports.
"As long as we can leverage this relationship to counter China in whichever way possible, it is going to be useful," Surya Gangadharan, a security analyst in New Delhi, told Bloomberg.
India plans to spend $150 billion by 2027 on purchase of new missiles, artillery, fighter jets, submarines and defence equipment and it permitted foreign investment in defence sector last year.
India topped the list of global arms importers in the past five years, with Russia supplying two-third of the country's arms imports, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.