Israel’s latest weapons deal with India seals warming relations


The end of May saw the second mammoth deal for state owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to supply India with advanced weapons technology, in this case $630 million to equip four Indian navy ships with Long Range Surface to Air Missile Systems (LRSAM).

The weapons system, developed in partnership with India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and a number of private companies including Israel’s Rafael, protects against a range of aerial and naval threats and includes missiles equipped with radio-frequency seekers, launchers, a command and control system and advanced phased-array radar. IAI describe it as, “the ultimate protection against a variety of aerial threats.”

IAI, Israel’s largest aerospace and defense company, stated in a press release that, “The System was successfully tested…in India as part of operational interception trial aboard India’s navy ship, demonstrating again the System’s operational capabilities in a representative scenario with genuine target.”

Just two months earlier Israel signed its largest ever defense deal with India, worth almost $2 billion, to supply medium range surface to air missiles (MRSAM) and missile defense systems to the Indian Army.

For Israel the deals represent an extension of a deliberate policy to shift the national economy eastwards, as reported by KNI, fulfilling words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Singapore early this year that “Israel is pivoting towards Asia in a very clear and purposeful way.”

This week Israel will be hosting 15,000 visitors from 90 countries over its three-day ISDEF international defense expo, which will include a large contingent of some 50 Indian exhibitors. The growing scale of this eighth expo is an indicator of Israel establishing itself increasingly as a major international defense supplier.

For India the deals represents a release from reliance on U.S. and Russian arms supply and a consequent diversification of its sourcing, as it seeks to strengthen its military position vis-a-vis nuclear armed neighbors China and Pakistan.

Israel has for many years been cooperating with Indian armed forces, but only with the rise to power of Nationalist Party Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the relationship become public, as he seeks to overtly contain the threat of Islamic extremism within his own borders and from abroad, rather than appease it, seeing Israel as an ally in the struggle.

“Over the past 25 years, IAI has worked with the Indian defense industries and armed forces in many areas as part of our strategic partnership,” said IAI President and CEO Joseph Weiss in April.

Amid warming ties Modi will be visiting Israel on a state visit later this summer, marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The deal includes provision for the manufacture of certain components within India, in line with India’s “Make In India” policy. Manufacturing will be carried out by Indian government company Bharat Electronics Limited.

“The new contract adds to other deals signed in the last decade by IAI with India’s defense forces,” said Weiss, “reinforcing IAI’s global leadership position in air and missile defense systems.”