In a sign of growing closeness between India and the United States amid conflict with China, the Indian Navy has inducted two Predator drones from an American firm on lease for carrying out surveillance in the Indian Ocean region and which can also be deployed along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh, the Asian News International (ANI) of India reported Wednesday.
The American-origin drones have been inducted by the Navy under the emergency-procurement powers granted by the Defense Ministry in view of the India-China border conflict. "The drones arrived in India in the second week of November and were inducted into flying operations on November 21 at Indian Navy base at INS Rajali," the ANI quoted top government sources as saying.
The drones have already started flying operations and with an endurance capability of being in the air for over 30 hours, they are proving to be a big asset for the maritime force, the sources said, adding: An American crew from the vendor is also accompanying the equipment and would help the Navy to operate the machines.
The drones are flying in Indian colors and would be on lease with India for one year even as the three services are preparing the case for acquiring 18 more such drones from the US, the ANI said.
India and America have been working very closely during the ongoing conflict against Chinese intrusion in Eastern Ladakh including help in surveillance and information sharing in all domains.
Under the lease agreement, the American support staff will only help in the maintenance and technical issues whereas the sortie planning and the joystick control would be with the Indian Navy personnel, the ANI report said.
The Indian armed forces have been showing faith in American systems in the last few years for their surveillance requirements as Indian Navy already has 9 P-8I long-range surveillance planes and would get another nine in next few years. India is also buying 24 MH-60 Romeos helicopters for giving it a multirole capability.
India and America have also signed the basic foundation agreements for cooperation in defense and national-security domain, the ANI report concluded.
India-US Geospatial Cooperation
Leasing of the two US predator Drones follows Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA) accord signed between India and the United States on October 22, 2020.
The agreement was signed during talks in New Delhi between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and India's External Affairs minister S. Jaishankar, and between US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and India's Defense minister Rajnath Singh.
The Times of India quoted Mike Pompeo as saying, "Today is a great opportunity for two great democracies to grow closer. We've a lot to discuss today--to cooperate amid pandemic, to confront Chinese Communist party's threats to security & freedom, to promote peace & stability in the region."
However, according to Pravin Sawhney, a former Indian Army official and author of several books on modern warfare, with BECA the Americans will be able to control India's strategic assets including cruise and ballistic missiles once these agreements cumulatively come into force.
"India is to sign the Basic Exchange & Cooperation Agreement with the US to use its geo-spatial maps for buying armed MQ-9B drones. The US can now theoretically control the command & control systems of our ballistic & cruise missiles with its cyber capability as part of sensor to shooter loops!," Sawney tells Sputnik.
Pravin Sawhney says with BECA signing, India becomes de facto junior military partner of America. "Unlike other military allies, America need not have any liability or responsibility for Indian wars." He believes that BECA will not help India's defense at all.
The signing of this Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for the co-sharing of geo-spatial data will further firm up India's bid to acquire armed drones that use location-sensitive information for targeted strikes on enemies. This agreement will mark the final one of three military communication foundational agreements between India and the US.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).