India tries to hasten deal for Predator drones with US before Barack Obama's term expires
India`s request for 22 Predator Guardian drones made in June is in an advanced stage of negotiations.
New Delhi: In the backdrop of tensions with Pakistan, India is trying to hasten a deal with the United States to buy Predator drone aircraft for military surveillance.
Notably, it is one of the many defence and nuclear projects India and the US are pursuing in the final months of the Obama administration.
According to a report in news agency Reuters, India`s request for 22 Predator Guardian drones made in June is in an advanced stage of negotiations.
The two sides hope to make enough progress so only administrative tasks remain by the time President Barack Obama leaves office, government officials in New Delhi said.
"It is progressing well. The aim is to complete the main process in the next few months," said one of the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has built personal ties with US President Barack Obama, whose signature foreign policy move has been a strategic pivot to Asia from the Middle East.
The United States has dislodged Russia as the top arms supplier to India. New Delhi is also on the cusp of sealing a US nuclear reactor deal worth billions of dollars.
In return, Washington has given New Delhi access to high-end military technology, such as a new system to launch planes off aircraft carriers, and leaned on other countries to give India membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime, which cleared the way for the sale of the unarmed Predator.
India`s military has also asked for the armed version of the Predator to help target suspected militant camps in Pakistan but US export control laws prohibit such a transfer.
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, who visited India in April, is expected to make a final trip there towards the end of the year.
The centrepiece of the military collaboration is the help the United States is giving India in developing its biggest aircraft carrier.
Washington has offered flight launch technology that is being inducted into its own carriers to fly heavier fighter planes off the deck, which could allow the Indian Navy to leapfrog a generation of technology.
In June, the United States reached agreement on exchanging confidential information on the development of carriers with India - its only non-treaty ally with such an arrangement.
"They have already started helping us on our first indigenous carrier, in terms of certification, quality testing," said the Indian government official. "The challenge will be to sustain the momentum over the next decade."
In August, the Modi government signed a logistics agreement giving each country access to the other`s military bases, after 10 years of negotiations. Also on the table are two other defence agreements, one on securing communications and the other on sharing spatial data that Washington has been pushing for.
(With Reuters inputs)