NEW DELHI, India - Days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India, authorities in India are said to have cancelled a $500 million Israel anti-tank missile deal.
An Israeli arms company, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems said the Indian Defence Ministry cancelled the $500 million Spike missile deal.
The company said the cancellation of the anti-tank missile order came before the contract was signed, arguing that India nixed the deal despite the company having fulfilled all its requirements.
Ishai David, a spokesman for the Rafael Advance Defence Systems said, “Rafael has now received an official notification from Indias Ministry of Defence concerning the cancellation of the Spike deal. It should be emphasised that the cancellation was made prior to the signing of the contract and despite Rafaels compliance with all the demands.”
The company added in its statement, “Rafael regrets the decision and remains committed to cooperating with the Indian Ministry of Defence and to its strategy of continuing to work in India, an important market, as it has for more than two decades, to provide India with the most advanced and innovative systems.”
However, on Tuesday, India announced that it would buy 131 Barak surface-to-air missiles from Rafael Advanced Defence Systems in a $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 currently under construction.
Over the last few years, Israel has become a major defence supplier to India, selling an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year.
In mid-January, Netanyahu will lead a business delegation to India on a four-day trip.
India is the centrepiece of Netanyahu’s initiative to cultivate ties with developing nations that have traditionally supported the Palestinians.
However, last month, India favoured the Palestinians by voting in support of a UN resolution denouncing the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, India, which has long-standing territorial disputes with neighbours China and Pakistan, has signed several big-ticket defence deals.
However, it has been moving away from relying on traditional ally Russia for military hardware.
In April last year, the two countries signed a military deal worth nearly $2 billion which includes the supply over several years of medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology.
So far, however, it is unclear whether the deal announced on Tuesday was part of that deal.
Meanwhile, the Indian defence ministry added that it had approved the purchase of 240 bombs from Russia’s JSC Rosonboron Exports for $188 million.
It said in a statement, “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.”