SEEMA MUSTAFA | 31 OCTOBER, 2014
Israel Hits Indian Defence Bonanza, Modi-Netanyahu Signal New Camaraderie
Narendra Modi meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
NEW DELHI: At a time when the call for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel is gathering momentum in different capitals of the world after the attack on Gaza, India is one of the few countries to have embraced Israel by signing a $ 525 million deal for anti-tank weaponry. This is the third defence deal signed with Israel since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to power.
The decision taken by the Modi government in Delhi flies in the face of efforts by the United States to secure this deal, with the choice having settled on Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Spike anti-tank missile. These are portable anti-tank missiles that the Indian army has been in sore need of, that lock on to the targets before fired.
New Delhi has taken a decision to step up defence ties with Tel Aviv. The strengthening of ties, particularly defence, was discussed at a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly that both were attending last month. Netanyahu said at a press conference ahead of the meeting, “we are very excited by the prospects of greater and greater ties with India. We think the sky’s the limit.” He went on to add, “this is an opportunity for Israel and India to expand further our relationship.”
PM Modi forged close ties with Israel as chief minister of Gujarat. At a time when the US denied him a visa because of the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, he was given red carpet treatment by Israel in 2006. The government has refused to outrightly condemn Israel for its terrible violence on the Palestinians which led to huge demonstrations in most capitals of the world. PM Modi did not meet any of the West Asian or Palestinian leaders during his visit to New York. India is Israel’s largest defence supplies customer. Israel is the second largest arms supplier to India after Russia, although experts insist that this equation is being reversed rapidly.
(Israeli arms firm Rafael displays a Bollywood dance number-based marketing video)
Procurements had become a major issue for the military under the UPA government with the over cautious Defence Minister at the time, AK Antony refusing to sign on the dotted line. Senior army officers told this writer that the preparedness of the Indian Army insofar as military hardware was concerned had been compromised as a result of these delays. The Modi government is expected to open the doors and Israel is hoping to hit the bonanza, given the rapport between the two leaders. It seems to be on the right track with the Indian Army having already purchased 49 Israeli miniature unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor Indian borders with China and Pakistan.
This was followed by the major Barak missile deal last month, when Israeli hostilities were still on in Gaza, with India placing an order for 262 Barak 1 surface-to-air missiles for the Indian Navy. The deal is worth $144 million. Rafael supplies this as well.
Interestingly the Israeli media reported the Spike deal extensively, also recording the fact that the indian government had cleared procurements deals worth $13.1 billion at a meeting of the “India’s Defense Acquisition Council headed by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.” New Delhi is buying 8356 Spike missiles and 321 launchers from Israel.