Less than two weeks before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India, New Delhi officially cancelled a $500 million defense deal with the Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to purchase Spike anti-tank guided missiles.
Rafael said in a statement that it “has received an official statement from the Indian Ministry of Defense on the cancellation of the Spike missile deal.” The Israeli company was expected to sell India some 8,000 Spike missiles and more than 300 launchers.
According to Indian media reports, the deal was nixed due to concerns that it would “adversely impact the program for indigenous development of the weapon system by DRDO (India’s Defense Research and Development Organization).”
But India also announced on Tuesday that it would approve a $70 million deal to buy 131 Barak surface-to-air missiles, which are also produced by Rafael. The missiles are slated to be used aboard India’s first-ever aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, which is under construction.
Last April, India and Israel inked a $2 billion military deal that includes a supply of several years worth of medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology. It is unclear if the cancelled Rafael deal is part of that package.
During the last few years, India and Israel have increased their defense, diplomatic and economic ties. Last summer, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the first visit to Israel by a holder of his office. Netanyahu is expected to arrive in India for several days starting on Jan. 14. India represents a key piece in Netanyahu’s strategy of building relations with non-traditional allies in Asia, Africa and Latin America.