India’s English-language daily newspaper The Hindustan Times, quoting military sources, said on Sunday that the Indian armed forces were concerned about the effectiveness and survivability of the US drones in highly volatile air spaces.
New Delhi internally raised questions about the drone surviving along its frontiers with China and Pakistan — with both potential adversaries equipped with advanced surface-to-air missile systems (SAM), it added.
India has long been engaged in conflict with Pakistan over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. The two have fought four wars since their partition in 1947, three of them over Kashmir. Indo-Pakistani relations nosedived in February when over 40 Indian paramilitaries were killed in a bomb attack in Kashmir.
In 1962, India and China fought a brief yet bloody war over Arunachal Pradesh, with Chinese troops temporarily capturing part of the territory.
In 2017, they were again engaged in a standoff in Bhutan’s Doklam region after the Indian army sent troops to stop the construction of a military road by China. After a two-month standoff, troops from both sides withdrew and the countries sought to rebuild trust. The 3,500-km border between the nuclear-armed neighbors has been calm ever since.
The report also said that the US has in recent years conducted its drone operations only in those countries where it faces no real threats or rivals.
“The armed drone has been successfully used by the US in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria as the skies are dominated by their air force,” it said.
India had planned to buy 30 drones from the US worth six billion dollars.
The country is also expecting to induct French-made Rafale fighter jets into its air force later this year.
“This means that an armed drone with full complement of weapons will be more expensive than Rafael multi-role fighter with all weapons and missiles on board,” an Indian Defense Ministry official said.
Iran shot down the intruding American spy in June.
The drone was identified as a US Navy MQ-4C Triton, which builds on elements of the RQ-4 Global Hawk with minor changes.