With an eye on China, US to co-develop drones with India

A senior Pentagon official announced on Thursday that the United States and India will co-develop drones as Washington wants tighter ties with Delhi as a means of fending off China.

This official stated that India would produce these drones and export them to other nations in the neighbourhood. Delhi wants to diversify its primarily Russian-made armaments while simultaneously growing its own defence industry.

“And we want to support India on both fronts and are doing so,” Eli Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told a group of reporters and defense experts. “In practical terms, that means that we’re going to be working closely with India on co-producing and co-developing capabilities that will support India’s own defense modernization goals,” Ratner said.

India can then “export to our partners across the region, including in South and Southeast Asia at affordable price points.” Ratner mentioned the potential for creating drones that are launched from aircraft as well as anti-drone defence systems.

He also said the Pentagon is considering in the near and medium term “opportunities to co-produce major capabilities,” but did not say which ones.

Relations between the United States and India were strained for a long time, but under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former President Donald Trump, the nations’ shared fear of an assertive China helped to forge stronger ties.

After designating India as a “major defence partner” in 2016, the two nations have subsequently negotiated agreements to make it easier to transfer high-end weapons and expand their military cooperation.