India nixes US$500 million Israel anti-tank missile deal ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu visit

India also announces purchase of 131 Barak surface-to-air missiles from Rafael Advanced Defence Systems for US$70 million

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2018, 3:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2018, 10:04pm

An Israeli arms company said India cancelled a US$500 million deal ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rafael Advanced Defence Systems said Tuesday the Indian Defence Ministry cancelled the Spike missile deal.

It said the cancellation of the anti-tank missile order came before the contract was signed and despite the company having fulfilled all its requirements. It did not give a reason for the cancellation.

However India would buy 131 surface-to-air missiles from Israel in a US$70 million deal.

The Barak missiles, also made by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, are to be used for India’s first aircraft carrier which is under construction.

Netanyahu will lead a business delegation to India on a four-day trip expected in mid-January.

Israel has become a major defence supplier to India, selling an average of US$1 billion of military equipment each year.

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

It was unclear whether the deal announced Tuesday was part of that.

The Indian defence ministry also said it had approved the purchase of 240 bombs from Russia’s JSC Rosonboron Exports for US$188 million.

“This procurement will address the deficiency of precision-guided munitions in the IAF (Indian Air Force) arsenal, besides enhancing the offensive capabilities of the IAF,” it said in a statement.

India is the centrepiece of Netanyahu’s initiative to cultivate ties with developing nations that have traditionally supported the Palestinians.

However, India favoured the Palestinians by voting in support of a UN resolution last month denouncing the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

India, which has long-standing territorial disputes with neighbours China and Pakistan, has signed several big-ticket defence deals since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.

It has however been moving away from relying on traditional ally Russia for military hardware.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse