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India Snubs U.S. Missiles in Favor of Israeli Bid

New arms deals a sign of deepening ties under India’s new Prime Minister

Yair Rosenberg
October 29, 2014
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems' Spike missile. (Wikimedia Commons)
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems' Spike missile. (Wikimedia Commons)

In the latest sign of the deepening relationship between Israel and India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has just announced a $525 million deal with Israel’s Raphael Advanced Defence Systems to purchase at least 8,000 Spike missiles and more than 300 launchers. The Indian government chose the Israeli-made weaponry over a competing U.S. offer of Javelin missiles, which Reuters reports, “Washington had lobbied hard to win.”

For newly-elected Prime Minister Modi, who visited Israel while a local governor in Gujarat before ascending to his country’s premiership, this is but the latest in a string of steps cementing ties between the two nations. In September, Modi’s government green-lighted a $144 million deal for 262 Barak-I missiles, ending a delay that had stymied the transaction since 2006. And earlier that month, while in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Modi met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the first such encounter between Israeli and Indian leaders in a decade. That meeting followed on the heels of the summer’s Gaza war, during which Modi’s government rejected a resolution condemning Israel’s operation, in a break from past practice.

Israel is already India’s second-largest arms supplier and that role looks only to expand in the years ahead, now that Modi is in power and seeking to further not only Israeli-Indian ties, but India’s role within the region. As Bard College’s Walter Russell Mead notes, “The choice to purchase Spikes and not Javelins tells us something else about India’s foreign policy: Modi wants to increase his country’s military strength, but he is not interested in being seen as—or actually becoming—a client of Washington.” As Modi and other regional players seek to move out of America’s shadow, Israel is only too happy to oblige them.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.