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Armoured tank belonging to the Indian army [file photo]

Armoured tank belonging to the Indian army [file photo]

An Israeli arms company has signed a $100 million deal with the Indian army and air force, under which 1,000 missile kits will be transferred to the South Asian state.

Rafael Advanced Defence Systems – an Israeli company which manufactures weapons for the Israeli army – signed the contract with Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd. India (KRAS) for $100 million. The deal will see 1,000 Barak 8/MRSAM missile kits manufactured for the Indian army and air force, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The Israeli daily explained that the MRSAM missile system “is a land-based configuration of the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) or Barak-8 naval air defence system”.

It added that each system “includes a command and control system, tracking radar, missiles and mobile launcher systems. The missiles, which can be fired in single or ripple firing modes from a vertical position, are launched in canister configuration, and the launcher will have eight canistered missiles in two stacks.”

The deal forms part of a joint agreement between the two companies under the “Make in India” initiative, which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched in 2014. According to a 2018 report by Haaretz, the initiative “has [since] become a vehicle to facilitate big international defence deals as joint ventures with foreign players,” including with Swedish, French and US companies.

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This is not the first arms deal signed between Israel and India. In January a delegation from Israel’s National Security Council, headed by National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, visitedIndia and met with Modi. The pair reportedly discussed weapons deals currently held between the two countries and the prospect of further cooperation.

In December, it emerged that Israel was worried India could scrap a $500 million arms deal for Spike anti-tank missiles. Israeli business newspaper the Marker claimed that India wanted the missiles to be better tested “in a high-temperature atmosphere” prior to closing on the purchase, though Israel believed India was simply “looking for an excuse” to scrap the contract.

In reality it is likely that India sought to develop the missiles – which it had planned to buy from Raphael – domestically, scaling back the order from Israel and awarding some of the contracts to local producers as part of the Make in India programme.

India remains Israel’s biggest arms market, thought to be worth about $1 billion annually. A report from the Sweden-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released earlier this year found that India accounts for 46 per cent of Israel’s arms export trade, with Azerbaijan and Vietnam the second and third biggest clients respectively.

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Israel-India relations have also extended outside the arms trade. In 2017 Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel, calling the visit “ground breaking”. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the visit “historic”, saying it would “deepen co-operation in a wide range of fields – security, agriculture, water, energy – basically in almost every field Israel is involved in”.

Netanyahu is also expected to visit India later this year. The visit – which reportedly came at Netanyahu’s initiative – is slated to take place in early September, though an exact date has not yet been revealed. The timing of the visit is no coincidence, given that Israel will head to its second general election this year on 17 September.

The prime minister has a habit of travelling abroad prior to elections. Ahead of April’s election, Netanyahu visited US President Donald Trump for a ceremonial signing of the US’ recognition of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as Israeli territory, in what was seen as a bid to demonstrate his close ties to the US president and strong record of diplomatic successes.

He also visited Russian President Vladimir Putin to highlight Russia’s apparent role in returning the body of an Israeli soldier who had been “missing in action” since Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

READ: India embraces Israel in unprecedented anti-Palestine vote at the UN

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