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Delhi confirms scrapping Rafael deal
By Resmi Sivaram January 04, 2018
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NEW DELHI: Defence Ministry sources on Wednesday asserted there was no political dimension to India’s cancellation of the purchase of 8,000 Spike anti-tank guided missiles and 300 launchers from Israel’s state-owned Rafael. The sources pointed out that a scheduled 5-day visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan.14 will go ahead and Rafael chief is accompanying him.

The deal for the “fire-and-forget” missiles, involving $500 million, was cancelled on Wednesday. The explanation given is that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing an indigenous missile instead. This will take four years to deploy.

Sources at the ministry said the decision was taken much earlier though Rafael was informed only last week.

Rafael Advanced Defence Systems confirmed cancellation of the deal on Wednesday. A statement from Rafael said it regretted India’s decision but remained committed to cooperating with the Defence Ministry and “to its strategy of continuing to work in India, an important market, as it has for more than two decades, to provide India with the most advanced and innovative systems.” At the same time, the Defence Ministry on Tuesday cleared a deal to buy $ 70 million worth 131 Barak surface-to-air missiles from the same Israeli firm. The Defence Ministry said 131 Barak missiles and associated equipment will be bought from Rafael for Rs4.60 billion. These are surface-to-air missiles designed to be used as a ship-borne anti-missile defence system.

Spike, which soldiers can carry themselves, is capable of hitting mobile targets like tanks. Rafael won the lucrative deal in 2015. The United States had offered a similar missile, called Javelin.

Rafael had constructed a missile-manufacturing facility near Hyderabad in joint venture with the Kalyani group. Ministry sources said the facility will remain for other Rafael projects.

The Pakistan Army is known to have portable anti-tank missiles that can strike Indian tanks and bunkers at a distance of three to four kilometres. The present missiles India have are limited to two kilometres. Media reports had emerged in November last year that the Rafael deal will be scrapped, but there was no official announcement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Israel last year. Despite talk of a developing relationship, India opposed the American decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital when it voted in support of a UN resolution last month denouncing the Trump administration’s move.

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