The Indian army and the government are discussing ways to revive a $500 million order to buy Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Israel’s state-owned defense contractor Rafael, military chief Bipin Rawat said on Friday.
India recently called off the deal to procure 8,000 missiles, souring the build up to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the country this week.
Rawat said the deal was scrapped after the state-run Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) offered to manufacture similar missiles in line with premier Narendra Modi’s pet ‘Make in India’ initiative.
“They (DRDO) said… why you are going for a missile that we are capable of manufacturing and can give you better results,” Rawat said. “That is what led to retracting of the RFP [request for proposal].”
Rawat said the DRDO missiles were yet to be tested and would not be ready till 2022, which could hit India’s operational capabilities in the interim. “So how do we bridge the gap between now and 2022? It’s through the Spike. Rather than going whole hog we are in the discussion with the government” to fill in the gap he said. “We can possibly look at a lesser number to meet the gap.”
India has been investing tens of billions of dollars in updating its Soviet-era military hardware to counter long-standing tensions with regional rivals China and Pakistan.
Israel is a major weapons supplier to India, exporting an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year. In April last year the two countries signed a military deal worth nearly $2 billion, which includes the supply of medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology.
But Modi has said he wants to end India’s status as the world’s number one defense importer and to have 70 percent of hardware manufactured domestically by the turn of the decade.