India is set to purchase 22 unmanned Guardian MQ-9B drones from the United States, pending formal approval from the US Congress. The former country placed the request in 2016 for maritime monitoring in the Indian Ocean to ostensibly keep a check on Chinese movement about the waters. It must be remembered that India and the US are not allies, officially. However, relations between the two leaderships are heating up as the US has sidelined its usual policy of selling advanced defence technology to allies only. This bending of rules comes amid Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned visit to Washington on a low key note to further develop and strengthen a personal bond between the two leaders. Counting that this is Modi’s fourth trip to Washington in three years, and apparently a ‘romantic’, low-key and intimate one, it would not be surprising if the two eventually formed an alliance down the road.
Nothing builds a closer bond between two people than getting together and discussing — or gossiping about — a third person. In this case, the popular choice would be Pakistan because Mr Modi has a lot of grievances against it to lament about and the US wants to play it smart considering our strategic location and major undertaking of trade projects with China. Pakistan’s name is most likely to come up in a discussion about combating extremism, especially noting that the country experienced three massive attacks on June 23 with the country’s security apparatus rendered helpless.
Although India and the United States have differences on climate change, trade and the skilled work visa policies for Indians, it will be interesting to watch how the meeting plays out. Nonetheless, the $2 billion sale indicates that their troubles might be pushed aside for now, recognising that defence sales since 2008 have totalled $15 billion and that general ties between the two countries have generally been amicable for decades, possibly attributed to the huge population of Indians on its soil making their mark in industry, research, and entertainment.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2017.