NOT FINALISED: US PREDATOR DRONES PRICE, CENTRE REFUSES CONGRESS ALLEGATIONS

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Officials from the Defence Ministry stated on Thursday that pricing for the predator drones is still being negotiated. India intends to purchase 31 predator aircraft from the US.

According to a senior official in the Defence Ministry, “India has so far received indicative price and data from the United States Office of Defence Cooperation and the procurement process has to go through various laps of negotiations before finalisation of price.”

Congress has also questioned the government, claiming that India is paying more for predator MQ 9B drones than some other nations are. Additionally, Congress said that the technology was old and questioned why the Modi administration was rushing to purchase drones “without the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security.”

Senior Defence Ministry officials refuted the charges made by the Congress and insisted that the negotiations between India and the United States are transparent government-to-government exchanges.

Under the US government’s foreign military sales policy, General Atomics is only able to sell sophisticated drones to India through that government. According to the official from the Defence Ministry, every such high-tech agreement is subject to Federal acquisition procedures and needs approval from the US Congress.

The US government’s Foreign Military Sales Programme enables friendly foreign nations to buy defence goods and services from the US. For the US government, this is a no-profit, no-loss operation. The official added that proper procedure is being followed in accordance with India’s Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020. The US Department of Defence follows the approach to acquire for its own military needs.

Senior Defence Ministry officials refuted the charges made by the Congress and insisted that the negotiations between India and the United States are transparent government-to-government exchanges. Under the US government’s foreign military sales programme, General Atomics is only permitted to sell sophisticated drones to India through the US government.

According to officials, the acquisition of drones will improve interoperability with US armed units. Two MQ 9B drones are already being leased by the Indian Navy. The official responded to the pricing question by saying, “Indicative price may go up or lower depending on the new capacity, technology, and capability features India may wish to incorporate in MQ- 9B HALE RPAS.

Public sector and private Indian enterprises are competing to collaborate with General Atomics, and India is seeking a competitive pricing as well as a 15 to 20% technology transfer from General Atomics that includes assembly and production in India.

This would give Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to turn India into a drone hub a new dimension. Officials categorically denied that there was any disagreement or that the Air Force had objected to the acquisition of drones as reported in some media, saying that the Army, Navy, and Air Force had performed a technical analysis on the requirement and had twice recommended choosing predator drones.

According to a top source in the Defence Ministry, “the Air Force has not voiced any objections, and there is no disagreement among the Army, Navy, and Air Force regarding the acquisition of drones,” and that once they are purchased, “it will increase India’s capacity of surveillance, intelligence gathering, and reconnaissance in the Indian Ocean, continental boundaries, and most importantly eastern and western borders.”

US PREDATOR DRONES PRICE NOT FINALISED

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