The US is interested in providing India with the kind of defence technology it normally reserves for its closest allies, the White House has said, signalling the Trump administration's resolve to strengthen the bilateral defence relationship.
However, a senior administration official refrained from confirming reports that the State Department has approved the sale of 22 Guardian drones to India. "We can't really talk about a potential or pending arms sale before they are actually notified to Congress."
"But I will simply note that the defence relationship is extremely important. The US is interested in leaning forward in providing high technology, the kind of technology it provides to its closest allies and partners," the senior administration official said.
Defence is expected to be a major agenda item when Trump hosts Modi at the White House on Monday.
"We're looking at a very productive visit. These kinds of sales that we're talking about are important for the strategic partnership, for cooperating in areas like the Indian Ocean region, increasing that cooperation, serving the interests of both countries," the official said.
"They create jobs, -- these kind of defence deals create a lot of jobs here in the US. So they're right in line with this administration's priorities. And of course, the United States is the world's technological leader in the kind of systems that you have mentioned," the official said in response to a question.
"As other nations begin to deploy these systems, that the US knows it has a responsibility to ensure these sales are consistent with US national security and foreign policy interests, our economic security, international standards, and US values," the official added.
Noting that defence relationship is extremely important to both countries, the official said they have to identify any defence transfers on a case-by-case basis. "Of course, we do this in accordance with the Arms Export Control Act and other policies and legislation. And so all these things are taken into account when we move forward with particular sales," the official opined.
He said in this particular case, the US evaluates that this is an important way for America and India to cooperate on specific areas of mutual concern, and that both sides benefit from transferring the kind of high technology, the Trump administration has been talking about.
"This is very much an example of the US wanting to treat India as a major defence partner, sort of demonstrating that, in concrete terms, that we consider India a close defence partner on par with our closest allies and partners," the official said.