Israeli official in India to finalize revived arms deal – report

Indian media says massive order of Spike anti-tank missiles may initially have been canceled due to objections of local weapons manufacturer

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Illustrative. Israeli soldiers launch a Spike anti-tank guided missile during a training exercise. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)
Illustrative. Israeli soldiers launch a Spike anti-tank guided missile during a training exercise. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

Sources in the Indian government have confirmed for the first time that a massive deal to purchase anti-tank missiles from Israel’s Rafael weapons manufacturer is back on the table after it had been canceled by Delhi, Indian media reported Monday.

Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, the director general of Israel’s Defense Ministry, arrived Monday for a two-day visit that will include talks with his Indian counterpart, Sanjay Mitra, and probably the signing of an inter-government agreement finalizing the details of the deal, Hindustan Times reported.

The countries will negotiate how many Spike anti-tank guided missiles will be bought from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and their price, with senior officials in Narendra Modi’s government quoted as saying the order should be around 3,000 missiles.

The deal will be signed by both governments, which India hopes will make it cheaper than the canceled one, since it won’t include a full transfer of technology as the initial deal had, the report added.

The report said that an Indian weapons manufacturer developing a local anti-tank missile objected to the inclusion of the tech transfer clause, implying that that had scuttled the original deal.

On January 2, a spokesperson for Rafael confirmed the company had received official notice from the Indian government that the original $500 million deal for Spike anti-tank missiles had been nixed.

The initial deal for the missiles was signed in 2014. Before the cancellation, Rafael had started preparations for delivering the missiles, opening a production facility in India in August with its local partner, the Indian industrial giant Kalyani Group.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the presidential palace in New Delhi on January 15, 2018. (AFP/Prakash Singh)

But on January 17, during an official visit to India, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Modi’s government was “reauthorizing the Spike deal,” adding that details were being worked out.

Days earlier, Indian media had reported that Delhi was examining whether to revive the deal and purchase the weapons through a government-to-government deal.

Now, with the agreement back on track, Delhi will seek to “fill the gap” before it inducts a new Indian-made anti-tank missile named Nag, which is in the testing stage and is likely to only begin commercial production in “some time,” Hindustan Times reported.

The negotiated price of the Spike will determine how many missiles and launchers will be sold to India, the report said, adding that more missiles are to be manufactured in India, in a joint factory in Hyderabad.

Illustrative. An Israel soldiers prepares to launch a Spike anti-tank guided missile during a training exercise. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems)

“The canceled order was for 3,000 missiles with another 5,000 from the Hyderabad factory,” an unnamed senior official was quoted as saying. “The order now should be around 3,000 Spikes, with the army having the option to purchase the missiles from the joint company in Hyderabad.”

Last April, Israel and India signed a military deal worth nearly $2 billion that includes the supply over several years of medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology.

India, which has longstanding territorial disputes with neighbors China and Pakistan, has signed several big-ticket defense deals since Modi came to power in 2014.

It has been moving away from relying on traditional ally Russia for military hardware, and has deepened its ties to Israel, diplomatically and militarily.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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