India is in talks with the United States to purchase 40 Predator surveillance drones, officials said, a possible first step towards acquiring the armed version of the aircraft and a development likely to annoy Pakistan.

India is trying to equip the military with more unmanned technologies to gather intelligence as well as boost its firepower along the vast land borders with Pakistan and China. It also wants a closer eye on the Indian Ocean.

New Delhi has already acquired surveillance drones from Israel to monitor the mountains of Kashmir.

As defence ties deepen with the United States, which sees India as a counterweight to China in the region, New Delhi has asked Washington for the Predator series of unmanned planes built by privately-held General Atomics, military officials said.

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