|MQ-9 Reaper (File Photo)|
By Siddharth Sivaraman and Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan
India should increase its military imports from the U.S., particularly drones.
India needs to diversify its arms imports. Although it is one of the world’s largest arms importers, most of India’s weapons come from Russia. Over the last five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia accounted for about $15 billion of the $20 billion in arms that India imported, or about three-quarters. That level of dependence is unhealthy: One of the reasons why India bought the Jaguar Bomber from a European consortium in the 1970s was the concern that India was becoming dependent on Soviet weapons.
India began diversifying when it awarded a contract for advanced air force fighters to France, though negotiations for the Rafale have dragged on interminably and have yet to be completed. India also buys some significant quantities of Israeli weapons.
But New Delhi has not sufficiently tapped the U.S., without question the country with the most advanced military technology in the world. Although the U.S. is India’s second largest source of weapons, it accounted for less than seven percent of India’s arms imports in value terms over the last five years. It is time that India diversified its arms sources by getting more of its weapons from the U.S., especially when cutting-edge technology is involved, as in advanced drones.
There are multiple advantages for India in making better use of U.S. weapons options. First, New Delhi could negotiate the development of state-of-the-art drone technologies, in which the U.S. has the most experience, with drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – such as the MQ-8 Fire Scout and/or long-range drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper or even the older Predator B. This would add a new dimension to UAVs with persistent capabilities for India, and it would also help kick start investments in this sector.
Read the full story at The Diplomat