In the latest sign of the deepening of Indian-Israeli ties, which has been going on (at least) since Narendra Modi took office, New Delhi and Jerusalem announced a major military deal over the weekend. India’s defense ministry says that it has selected Israel’s Spike anti-tank missile system out of a range of competing bidders for the deal that included, most notably, the U.S. Javelin system. The Guardian reports:
India will buy at least 8,000 Spike missiles and more than 300 launchers in a deal worth 32bn rupees ($525m), the source said after a meeting of India’s Defence Acquisition Council.Prime minister Narendra Modi’s five-month-old government wants to clear a backlog of defence orders and boost India’s firepower, amid recent border tensions with China and heavy exchanges of fire with Pakistan across the Kashmiri frontier.“National security is the paramount concern of the government,” the source quoted Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, who also holds the finance portfolio, as telling the procurement panel. “All hurdles and bottlenecks in the procurement process should be addressed expeditiously so that the pace of acquisition is not stymied.”Among other business cleared by the panel, India will issue a request for proposals to supply six submarines, added the source, who was not authorised to comment on the record and did not elaborate.
This deal is one of the most concrete signs that India and Israel are going to be working together much more closely, but it is by no means the first such sign. Already, Israel is India’s second biggest weapons supplier, and this deal is only tipping the scales further.The choice to purchase Spikes and not Javelins tells us something else about India’s foreign policy: Modi wants to increase his country’s military strength, but he is not interested in being seen as—or actually becoming—a client of Washington. It’s worth remembering that Modi himself has been subject to U.S. sanctions for human rights violations as recently as his September visit to the U.S. So it makes perfect sense that he might be primed to fear that over-dependence on the U.S. would place his country’s military fate in the capricious hands of a Washington that imposes sanctions unfairly, at least in some cases.The last important thing to know about this deal is that it is excellent news, economically speaking, for Japan and Israel—two countries with excellent high tech capabilities, both of which see strategic ties between their interests and India’s. This isn’t likely to be the last deal between India and Israel.