As India and Israel celebrate 25 years of their diplomatic relations, Tel Aviv has quietly emerged as one of the largest and trusted suppliers of defence equipment to the Indian armed forces, which rely heavily on imports.
After protracted negotiations, the two countries are close to concluding a deal for Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missiles. This will be the latest in a series of big-ticket defence deals approved recently. “The Spike deal is not yet sealed, but it is almost done. We expect to conclude it very soon,” an official source told The Hindu .
In a related development, Navy Chief and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee Admiral Sunil Lanba left on a four- day visit to Israel on Sunday to continue the “high-level defence exchanges.” The purchase of Spike missiles was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in October 2014, but negotiations on the contract ran into trouble over cost and technology transfer. The Rs. 3,200-crore deal includes 8,000-plus missiles, 300-plus launchers and technology transfer. The deal is likely to expand as the Army intends to equip its 382 infantry battalions and 44 mechanised regiments with new missiles.
After New Delhi established full diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv on January 29, 1992, Israel has made inroads into the Indian defence sector, earning praise for reliability and technological sophistication. It is well entrenched in the areas of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, air defence systems, special forces equipment and electronic warfare equipment.
According to information presented in Parliament by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre in March, during 2015-16 and 2016-17 (till February 2017), 37 contracts have been signed with vendors of various countries for capital procurement of defence equipment. Seven of them are with Israel, second only to the U.S. with which nine contracts have been signed.
More deals on the anvil
Officials of both countries have stressed that Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Israel, the first by an Indian Prime Minister, will not be defence-oriented. “The PM’s visit will not be defence-centric. Earlier, the relationship was based on defence, but now we have gone beyond that,” an official said.
Earlier this year, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved a Rs. 17,000-crore deal to jointly develop a Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MR-SAM) system for the Army.