India, an ‘old friend’ of Palestine, has made a major change in its policy towards West Asia, as it has picked Israel’s ‘Spike’ anti-tank missile over US ‘Javelin’ missiles offered by Washington. Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems manufactures Spike that is basically a man-portable ‘fire and forget’ anti-tank missile. It locks on to targets before shooting.
The Indian Defence Ministry confirmed on Saturday that the Narendra Modi administration has approved a USD 144 million missile purchase from Israel, rejecting the US offer of Javelin missiles. Soon after India’s Defence Acquisition Council held a meeting in New Delhi, the ministry issued the statement according to which the South Asian country will purchase at least 8,000 ‘Spike’ missiles and more than 300 launchers on the basis of a deal worth USD 525 million.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said that the newly-elected Indian government is eager to clear a backlog of defence orders. According to him, it is important to boost India’s firepower, keeping in mind the recent border tensions with neighbouring China and heavy exchanges of fire with Pakistan across the frontier in Kashmir. “National security is the paramount concern of the government. All hurdles and bottlenecks in the procurement process should be addressed expeditiously so that the pace of acquisition is not stymied,” added the minister. Jaitley further indicated that India, the world’s largest arms buyer, might also ask Israel to supply six submarines, apart from investing around USD 250 billion to upgrade its Soviet-era military hardware. He told the local media that the proposed move will help India close the gap on strategic rival China that spends three times as much a year on defence. The Defence Ministry statement also said that Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh will make a high-level visit to Jerusalem in November to strengthen bilateral ties. During his four-day trip from November 6, Singh will hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss important bilateral, regional and international issues. Netanyahu, who met his Indian counterpart in New York in September, told Modi: “We are excited about the possibilities of stronger ties with India and the sky is the limit.” He made the indication that Israel is ready to bolster ties with India immediately after Modi approved the purchase of 262 Israeli-made ‘Barak 1’ surface-to-air missiles under a USD 144 million deal. The Indian defence experts are of the opinion that the Modi government wants India to become Israel’s next major military ally, despite knowing that Jerusalem continues to show signs of developing Asian allies, such as China and Japan.