A bipartisan pair of key senators is pressing the Trump administration to approve the $2-billion General Atomics’ Guardian defence deal between the US and India, arguing that US jobs hang in the balance. India has been declared a strategic defence partner after joining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and this deal is considered a centrepiece of the relationship. This deal could be a good deliverable from President Trump for the potential upcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US.
According to sources, senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner jointly sent a letter to defense secretary Jim Mattis and secretary of state Rex Tillerson to approve the export of General Atomics’ Guardian, a non-lethal maritime version of the MQ-9 Reaper. The two lawmakers co-chair the US-India caucus. While Cornyn is the number two Republican in the Senate, Warner is the vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
India has requested information multiple times over the last year. India has sent letters of request for 22 Guardian drones and three electromagnetic catapults under the US Foreign Military Sales programme. Renowned US aerospace leader Dr Vivek Lall has been spearheading both pursuits for General Atomics. During recent high-level visits, Indian and US government officials have had significant discussions on the ‘Guardian’.
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The ‘Guardian’ is Category 1 aircraft with state-of-the-art technologies and US senators have argued that special consideration should be given to India as the deal would foster better joint operations and intelligence sharing.
“Lack of support for this sale will not only have implications for regional security in the Asia-Pacific region, but could also significantly impact the MQ-9 production line and put thousands of US manufacturing jobs at risk,” Cornyn and Warner have stated.
US-based General Atomics built ‘EMALS’ as well as Guardian unmanned aircraft are cutting edge technologies that can help both countries with their common maritime security objectives.
Acknowledging India’s positive contributions to regional security and stability, including in matters beyond the maritime space, the two countries have already announced their agreement to further consultations in maritime domain awareness (MDA)area.
The Trump administration will come out decisively in favour of this as opposed to the Obama administration that kept this deal in limbo. The White House is keen on securing the Asia-Pacific region and India is a key player in that to counter the Chinese threat.
Both sides have inked Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). However, follow-up on foundational agreements like CISMOA (Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement), and BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) is still pending.