Senator Cardin endorses India drone deal following extensive talks with Biden administration

The approved sale involves 31 MQ-9B armed drones, enhancing India’s capabilities for unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation. The deal comprises 15 SeaGuardian drones for the Navy, along with eight each of the land version, SkyGuardian, for the Army and the Indian Air Force.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has withdrawn his objections to the USD 3.9 billion drone deal with India. This decision comes after months of meticulous discussions with the Biden administration, during which assurances were provided regarding India’s commitment to investigating an alleged plot to assassinate a Khalistani separatist on American soil. The assurance led to the State Department notifying Congress of the U.S. Government’s approval to sell 31 armed drones to India.

The approved sale involves 31 MQ-9B armed drones, enhancing India’s capabilities for unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation. The deal comprises 15 SeaGuardian drones for the Navy, along with eight each of the land version, SkyGuardian, for the Army and the Indian Air Force.

Senator Cardin, a Democrat, explained his approval was contingent on the Biden administration’s commitment to a thorough investigation into the alleged plot involving Indian officials—the plot aimed at assassinating Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Khalistani separatist holding dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship. As the committee’s chairman, Cardin emphasized his intent to hold the administration accountable for these commitments.

Acknowledging the strategic importance of the sale for U.S. national security, Cardin expressed concerns about its timing in light of the alleged murder-for-hire plot. He underscored the delicate balance between strengthening the U.S.-India partnership and addressing human rights issues, emphasizing that mutual trust and respect should underpin the bilateral relationship.

Highlighting the role of the U.S.-India partnership in Indo-Pacific stability, particularly through mechanisms like the Quad, Cardin stressed the significance of championing human rights and democratic values globally. While supporting the deepening bilateral relationship, he maintained that progress on these fronts necessitates open discussions about democracy and engagement with allies.

Cardin concluded by affirming his commitment to raising human rights issues with the U.S. administration and Indian counterparts. He emphasized that shared values are fundamental to the growth and longevity of the partnership between the two nations.

The withdrawal of objections by Senator Cardin and the subsequent approval of the drone deal mark a crucial step in strengthening US-India ties, as both countries navigate shared challenges and opportunities on the global stage.