India & United States pushing forward deal for Predator drone aircraft

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India and the United States are reportedly pushing forward a deal for the supply of Predator drone aircraft in order to complete the project before U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office early next year.

“It is progressing well. The aim is to complete the main process in the next few months,” Reuters quoted a government official in New Delhi — speaking on condition of anonymity — as saying. He was referring to the country’s request for 22 Predator Guardian drones — to be used for military surveillance — that was made in June this year.

India is apparently rushing to conclude the deal under the Obama administration as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shares cordial relations with the American president after several personal interactions since the former took office in 2014. India serves as a strategic partner in the U.S. mission to tackle terrorism in the region while Washington has replaced Moscow as the top arms supplier to New Delhi. A number of other defense and nuclear collaborations and deals between the two countries are in the pipeline currently. While the multibillion-dollar U.S. nuclear reactor deal is still being worked out, the United States has offered India its flight launch technology for New Delhi to develop its biggest aircraft carrier.
“They have already started helping us on our first indigenous carrier, in terms of certification, quality testing,” the Indian official told Reuters. “The challenge will be to sustain the momentum over the next decade.”

The uncertainty over who will take over from Obama following the November elections has been a cause of worry for the South Asian country. While Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has been seen in a more or less positive light — especially since she has dealt with India in the past during her stint as the secretary of state — there is more apprehension regarding Donald Trump, the Republican candidate.

Other than Trump’s isolationist rhetoric and continued call for a dial back on the country’s presence in other regions, his contradictory stand with regards to India has been a cause of concern. Reuters quoted Manoj Ladwa, a London-based political strategist and former communications director for Modi’s last election campaign, as saying: “On the one hand, he says he values business relations with India, but then mimics Indian call center workers, and disregards the competitiveness that a partnership with India could provide the U.S.”

“His unpredictability is worrisome in a world that requires steady and mature statesmanship,” Ladwa added, about Trump.

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