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Israel PM’s February visit to finalise $500-million anti-tank missiles deal for Indian Army

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The deal for the purchase of Spike anti-tank guided missiles had also been finalised in 2017, but cancelled as India eyed an indigenous alternative.

New Delhi: India is all set to sign a $500 million deal to purchase the Israeli ‘Spike’ anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) systems for the Indian Army when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the country mid-February.

Netanyahu, who is also facing elections in his country this year like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wants to finalise the deal before he demits office. He is under pressure from the Israeli defence industry to finalise the deal with India, sources told ThePrint.

Israel has been pushing the deal, talks for which officially began in 2010, for a long time. During Netanyahu’s last visit to India in January 2018, he had urged Modi to consider finalising the contract, after New Delhi cancelled it all of a sudden without giving Tel Aviv any clear reason.

The deal to purchase the ATGMs, manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd, was finalised once before, in 2017. However, it was cancelled in January 2018 after the Modi government decided to procure the home-grown ATGM — Nag — from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Sources said “issues” between India and Israel over transfer of technology for the Spike missiles, for their production under the ‘Make in India’ programme, played a role as well.

However, the government has now taken a final decision to go ahead with the purchase. According to diplomatic sources, the modalities of the deal were agreed upon during a meeting between national security adviser Ajit Doval and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat, who visited India earlier this month.

The Indian Army has made a requisition for 8,000 units of such missiles. Out of this, India will be buying 4,500 off the shelf, while the remaining will be manufactured locally.

Also read: Why India’s new Israel ambassador is the talk of the town

27th year of diplomatic ties

The missiles are expected to be made by Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems (KRAS), a joint venture between India’s Kalyani Group and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Systems. It has already set up a production facility in Hyderabad to manufacture the missiles.

When India had first set out on the search for an ATGM system, the US’ Javelin missile had also emerged as a primary contender.

During Netanyahu’s January 2018 visit, he and Modi had agreed to develop more business models and partnerships for joint ventures and joint manufacturing, including transfer of technology as well as joint research and development, in defence and security fields.

This year marks the 27th year of diplomatic ties between India and Israel.

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