India says $500 million missile deal with Israel will move ahead

Announcement of $500 million India-Israel missile deal comes just days ahead of Netanyahu’s trip to India, where focus will be on boosting trade ties between the two countries.

By: Margot Dudkevitch

India intends to purchase 8,000 Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel to the tune of $500 million, reports out of India stated. News of the deal was announced ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming trip to the country and after New Delhi recently said it was cancelling the missile deal with Israel in favor of a local brand.

The Hindustan Times said the purchase would be conducted via the “government to government route,” as the Indian Army is keen on acquiring the missile from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense System and the country’s Defense Research and Development Organization has no objection to the deal. The newspaper noted that India also plans to purchase torpedoes for its submarines as well as assault rifles from Israel.

At a briefing in Jerusalem on Wednesday to discuss Netanyahu’s trip to India, Gilad Cohen, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general for Asia and Pacific, refused to comment on the weapons deal between the two countries. India is Israel’s largest weapons market, and according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Jewish state sold $599 million worth of arms to India in 2016.

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Non-military trade between the two countries in 2016 reached $4.2 billion. During Netanyahu’s visit to the country next week, meetings between Israeli and Indian officials are expected to focus on ways to increase cooperation in areas of tourism, agriculture and innovation.

Netanyahu disappointed in India’s UN vote

Speaking to a gathering of foreign journalists on Wednesday evening, Netanyahu said he was disappointed that India voted in favor of the resolution at the UN General Assembly condemning the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Answering a question from an Indian journalist, Netanyahu said, “We would have preferred another vote, to be frank.”  The prime minister went on to say, “I don’t think the vote materially changes the recent flowering of relations between Israel and India, and everybody can see that.”

Netanyahu said that last July’s visit to Israel by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “a very important milestone, and my visit will see an expansion of economic and other ties.”  Over time, he continued, he is expecting a change in India’s voting on issues relating to Israel at international forums.

Netanyahu told the journalists that Israel has been deepening ties with countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. “Ultimately. we would like to see improved ties translate to support in  international forums,” he said,  conceding that it “takes some time for improved relations to be expressed on the international front.”