India to buy $2.8b worth of weapons from Israel

An unmanned aerial vehicle assembly line at the offices of IAI. The Israeli firm will also supply India with a naval defence system.
An unmanned aerial vehicle assembly line at the offices of IAI. The Israeli firm will also supply India with a naval defence system.PHOTO: REUTERS

State-owned Israeli giant to supply advanced systems including surface-to-air missiles

NEW DELHI • India has inked a deal to buy surface-to-air missile defence systems worth nearly US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) from Israel in what is being described as the "largest defence contract" ever signed by the military exporting giant.

The deal will see state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) provide India with an advanced defence system of medium-range, surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology, the company said in a statement on Thursday, reported Agence France-Presse.

IAI has described the system as being capable of shooting down aircraft, missiles and drones at ranges of up to 70km, reported The Hindustan Times.

The "mega" missile agreement is "considered to be the largest defence contract in Israel's defence industries' history", the company said.

The Israeli firm will also supply a naval defence system, including long-range, surface-to-air missiles for India's first indigenous aircraft carrier, which is still under construction, reported Agence France-Presse.

IAI said some components will be assembled in India, in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's push to reduce reliance on costly imports. Mr Modi's government has raised the limit on foreign investment in the defence sector and encouraged tie-ups between foreign and local companies under a "Make in India" campaign.

India - the world's largest defence importer - has been investing tens of billions in updating its Soviet-era military hardware to counter longstanding tensions with regional rivals China and Pakistan. India has signed several big-ticket defence deals since Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party stormed to power in 2014.

Israel is a top weapons exporter, with sales last year surging to US$6.5 billion. India is a top market for its arms, as New Delhi has turned increasingly away from traditional ally Russia for its military hardware.

India has traditionally kept its defence ties to Israel under wraps to avoid irking its Arab allies and its own large Muslim population.

However, Mr Modi sees Israel as an ally against Islamist militancy and has openly cultivated warmer ties, reported Mint newspaper.

Mr Modi is due to visit Israel later this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'India to buy $2.8b worth of weapons from Israel'. Print Edition | Subscribe