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Before Modi visit, General Atomics says US has approved drone sale to India

India has been looking to buy 22 of the unarmed surveillance aircraft


Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi

The United States has approved the sale of a naval variant of the Predator made by Aeronautical Systems Inc to India, the US-based company said on Friday.

Reuters reported earlier on Friday that the US was expected to authorise the sale of drones ahead of a visit next week by Prime Minister

has been looking to buy 22 of the unarmed surveillance aircraft, MQ-9B Guardian, worth more than $2 billion to keep watch over the Indian Ocean.

"We are pleased that the US has cleared the way for the sale of the MQ-9B Guardian to the Indian Government," Aeronautical Systems Chief Executive Linden Blue said in a statement.

The Indian embassy and the US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Securing agreement on the purchase of the drones is seen in New Delhi as a key test of defence ties that flourished under former President Barack Obama but have drifted under Trump, who has courted Asian rival China as he seeks Beijing's help to contain North Korea's nuclear programme.

The deal would be the first such purchase by a country that is not a member of the NATO alliance.

Such a sale of sensitive military hardware must be authorised by the State Department before being sent to Congress for review.

A congressional source said on Thursday that no notification of a planned sale has yet been sent to Congress, but this could come next week.

The State Department declined comment on Thursday ahead of any notification.

First Published: Sat, June 24 2017. 02:21 IST