India has speeded up its plans to buy armed drones from Israel, defence sources said, allowing the military to carry out strikes overseas with less risk to personnel.
This follows after Pakistan reported using a home-made drone in combat attacked by militants on its soil thereby raising the chances of a new front in the standoff by neighbouring countries over Jammu and Kashmir that has twice spilled into war over the years.
The plan to acquire Israeli Herons (armed drones) was conceived three years ago, but in January the military wrote to the government asking for speedy delivery, sources said, as Pakistan and China have developed their own armed drone capabilities.
The US has carried out hundreds of drone strikes inside Pakistan, targeting al-Qaeda and others even as Pakistan cribs about such targeted killings in public.
Indian drones are shot down once they show up on Pakistani radars, army said. “It is likely drones would be used but in secret manner close to the LoC,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistan weapons proliferation expert.
In July, the Pakistan army said it had shot down a small Indian spy drone in J&K. India did not comment.
It may be noted only the US, Israel and Britain are known to have used armed drones in combat.
China has no public strategy for armed drone development. Its combat drones still lag far behind the Israeli-made ones in terms of capability, said experts.
Meanwhile, former National Security Advisor MK Narayanan said there is always the danger of knowing how it will intensify, when there is a conflict between India and Pakistan as both are nuclear powers.
Pakistan has been gaining in confidence when it comes to dealing with India, he added.