After a gap of seven years, India is going ahead with the buying of Israeli Barak surface-to-air precision-guided missiles worth Rs 880 crore ($142m).
India’s defence acquisition council (DAC) cleared the purchase of the missiles which are missile interceptors used as the last ditch defence against advancing missiles at a distance of 10km, said reports on Tuesday.
The acquisition of the Barak missiles is part of Rs 16000 crore ($2.5bn) worth arms for the Indian military, most of it to beef up naval strength.
Among the equipment cleared for purchase by the DAC are 16 anti-submarine shallow water craft for defending the coast against enemy submarines and two deep-sea submarine rescue vessels to help submarines deep below the surface of the oceans.
The DAC also cleared the buying of 41 indigenously built Advanced Light Helicopters, one for the Navy and the rest for the Army.
The focus on the navy, according to reports, is to counter the rising Chinese naval power and to increase security in the Indian ocean, reports said.
The Barak deal was originally signed in 2000 by India’s previous government led by the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
The deal got stuck on charges of corruption, and was the focus of an investigation by India’s premier Central Bureau of Investigation. It recently dropped the probe for want of evidence.
The Barak missiles scam involved Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael as also the then Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes and his colleagues Jaya Jaitley and RK Jain besides alleged arms dealer Suresh Nanda and former Indian Navy chief admiral Sushil Kumar.
Resumption of the Barak-I missile acquisition was crucial as the navy had for long warned the government that its stock of missiles was fast depleting and it needed them to arm the Indian navy’s frontline warships including aircraft carrier INS Viraat and the Shivalik-class stealth frigates, reports said.
For Israel, the clearance comes as a relief as India is among the biggest buyers of Israeli military equipment since normalisation of relations between the two countries in the early 90’s.