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US approves $4 billion drone sale to India for maritime security needs

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the media after he arrived in the Parliament on the first day of its budget session in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan.31, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Thursday approved a nearly $4 billion sale of drones and military equipment to India that are meant to be used to improve its maritime safety and surveillance.

The approval comes at a time when Washington is courting New Delhi to increase its cooperation with the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, which is largely focused on countering China’s influence in the region.

The State Department notified Congress of the $3.99 billion sale that will include 31 Sky Guardian drones, 170 Hellfire missiles, 310 small-diameter bombs and related support material.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defense partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region,” the department said in a statement.

It "will improve India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation,” it said, adding that India “has demonstrated a commitment to modernizing its military and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”