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Netanyahu says India-Israel missile deal back on track

Netanyahu's visit to India is the first by an Israeli premier in 15 years. [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 January, 2018

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Tel Aviv has been supplying India with weapons for a number of years, including various weapons systems, missiles and drones.

India will restart talks with Israel over a cancelled deal to buy anti-tank missiles, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

New Delhi had suspended the $500 million deal to buy the Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel's state-owned defence contractor Rafael after apparently deciding to manufacture the equipment at home.

But Netanyahu, in India on the first visit by an Israeli premier in 15 years, said his Indian counterpart had agreed to review the 2014 agreement.

"Following the talks I had with my friend Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian government has informed us that it is putting the Spike deal back on track," Netanyahu said in a statement.

"This is very important and there will be many more deals."

India's military chief Bipin Rawat said last week the deal was scrapped after the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) offered to manufacture similar missiles in line with premier Narendra Modi's pet "Make in India" initiative.

Modi wants to end India's status as the world's top defence importer and encourage foreign companies to transfer their technology to local firms to create much-needed jobs.

Earlier this month India announced it would buy 131 surface-to-air missiles from Israel for its first domestically made aircraft carrier.

Modi made history in July when he became the first Indian leader to visit Israel.

During Netanyahu's visit, the two have signed a series of agreements on oil, gas, renewable energy and cyber security as well as pledging to boost bilateral trade and investment.

Israel and India have experienced a rapid warming of ties as they expand their strategic alliance. Tel Aviv has been supplying India with weapons for a number of years, including various weapons systems, missiles and drones.

India, the world's largest defence importer, has been investing tens of billions in updating its military equipment to counter long-standing tensions with regional rivals China and Pakistan.

Israel, which sees India as a strategic partner in reaching its own goals in the region is a top weapons exporter, with sales last year surging to $6.5 billion.

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