With Chinese at the door, India inks $200 mn deal for Israeli SPICE bombs

The deal is reportedly only the latest of the Ministry of Defence’s series of secret contracts with the Israeli government over the years

An Israeli Rafael Spice guided bomb under the wing of an Israeli Air Force F-16I Soufa Fighter. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In the backdrop of a bitter border squabble with China at Ladakh, India has inked a $200 million military deal with Israel in secret, reported The Wire.

According to the report, while a press release by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems on December 23, without identifying the buyer, said that it has signed a contract with “an Asian country” to sell bomb guidance kits, anti-tank guided missiles and software-enabled radios, the deal has been confirmed by Jane’s Defence Weekly.

The weekly reported that Rafael’s contract with the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) involves provision of Smart, Precise, Impact, Cost-Effective (SPICE)-2000 bomb guidance kits to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and 300-odd Spike-Long Range ATGMs and BNET broadband Internet Protocol tactical radios to the Indian Army. The delivery of the items is slated to be completed by early 2021.

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The report says the MoD procured these equipment under the ‘emergency’ equipment acquisition provisions to meet requirements amid the standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.

The Wire report said that the government in a similarly clandestine way had procured the SPICE bomb kits and ATGMs from Rafael, in 2019. Military officials had earlier claimed that SPICE bombs were used by the IAF Mirage-2000Hs to eliminate Islamic training camps in Pakistan’s Balakot in 2019.

While the Centre had acquired 260 Spike ATGMs and 12 launchers for the Indian Army and 100 SPICE kits for IAF, the items were reportedly purchased under ‘emergency’ procedures, to avoid the rigmarole of the official procurement process of the MoD.

In a bid to address shortfalls in the defence forces, the ministry has reportedly procured unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), assorted missile and air defence systems, varied advanced sensors and radars, avionics technology and precision guided munitions from Israel over the past few years.

The report says India’s military purchase from Israel rose after the BJP-led government under Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 and Tel Aviv signed the military contract worth $715 million with India in 2017.

However, despite India being the largest military customer of the middle eastern country in the past three decades, both the countries have kept the military purchases a clandestine affair. The reports says the secrecy is primarily because of New Delhi’s fear of making the Arab states and Iran – from where India imports 70 per cent of its crude oil and petroleum products – angry. This is the reason, why even diplomatic visits between the two countries by remain a secret.

The report says, the camaraderie is only a continuation of the secret relation between the two countries before 1992 – the year when diplomatic ties were forged. Israel had reportedly provided military aid and weapons to India during the war with China in 1962 and those with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 through ammunition supplies.

While senior Indian security officials travelled to Israel through Cyprus – as there were no air routes between the two countries – to keep the visit a secret, the country was formally made a diplomatic ally in January 1992 under the Narasimha Rao government. While the Atal Bihari Vajpayee

government recognised Israel as a prominent military supplier, the latter proved its worth as a friend during the Kargil war in 1999 during which it provided India with the 155 mm howitzer rounds for the Bofors gun and lazer-guided munitions.

That apart, Israel is also said to have helped India deal with technical teams and equipment during the Kashmiri insurgency in the 2000s.

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