The administration of US President Donald Trump has authorized the sale of more than 20 unarmed surveillance drones to India, the manufacturer says.
Last year, India submitted a request for 22 Guardian MQ-9B unmanned aircraft for maritime surveillance as part of a deal worth about $2 billion.
Trump authorized the sale, the manufactures said on Friday, but the offer is still subject to congressional approval.
“We are pleased that the US government has cleared the way for the sale of the MQ-9B Guardian to the Indian government,” Linden Blue, CEO of the manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, said in a statement.
It would “significantly enhance India’s sovereign maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific,” Blue added.
A congressional staffer familiar with the matter also confirmed the approval by the Trump administration.
This comes as Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet at the White House on Monday.
The administration’s green light marks a further deepening in defense relations between the two countries.
Although Trump has so far focused on outreach to China, India’s strategic rival, Washington and New Delhi both share concerns about China’s rise as a military power.
India reportedly plans to use the drones for surveillance of the Indian Ocean where China’s navy has increased its presence after establishing its first overseas base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.
A senior White House official said Friday that Washington wants India to have the kind of high technology it provides to its closest allies and defense partners.
The US and India do not have a formal alliance, but defense relations have improved in recent years as the US has raised its defense sales to India and two have increased their joint drills as well.