India will take possession of hundreds of Israeli-made Barak missiles for its battleships late next year, following approval of a weapons deal between the two countries that had been delayed for years. The purchase deal was approved by India’s cabinet committee on security matters, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to the Times of India.
Under the plan, India will take delivery of 262 Barak 1 missiles over the course of about five years, starting in December of 2015. These will be deployed on the country’s 14 battleships, which have suffered from dwindling missile supplies in recent years, according to the Indian navy.
The Israeli Defense Ministry refused to comment on Israel’s extensive military relationship with India. However, an Israeli source defined India as “a strategic state” with respect to Israel’s military exports and confirmed that the deal is indicative of the close relations between the two countries.
Israel sees the Barak missile deal as a significant step by the new government in India; one which could advance diplomatic relations as well as military ties. The newly-elected Modi is considered to hold pro-Israel views.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Modi in New York last month and invited him to visit Israel. It was the first meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries in more than a decade. Among other things, Netanyahu proposed to Modi that the two countries expand relations in the cyber field. “We are excited about stronger and stronger relations with India, and the sky is the limit,” Netanyahu told the press after the meeting.
The Barak missile deal was at the center of a scandal in 2006, when suspicions arose of corruption on the part of Indian politicians in return for advancing weapons deals in the country. Indian opposition parties demanded an investigation of the Barak deal following allegations that Israel Aerospace Industries (then called Israel Aircraft industries) had bribed an intermediary in the deal in order to ensure the signing of the contact.
The case was closed due to lack of evidence, according to the article in the Times of India.
Israel has extensive security relations with India and is considered a major arms supplier to several south Asian countries. With a staff of six, its military delegation in India is second only to that of the United States. The Barak missile deal is estimated at $144 million.
The Indian minister of defense visited Israel for three days last July and talked with top Israeli officials about additional weapons deals, among them a control system for the India air force. Israel is also interested in selling India Israeli defense systems, such as Iron Dome, though it has not been successful so far. Last year, the Indian government approved the purchase of 15 Heron unmanned aerial vehicles produced by IAI. Israel is currently developing a more advanced model of the Barak missile, the Barak 8, in cooperation with India.