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BONHOMIE SAVES SPIKE DEAL

Tuesday, 16 January 2018 | Vineeta Pandey | New Delhi- The India-Israel deal for the Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile, which was scrapped over cost and technology transfer issues, is back on track after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu held extensive talks on Monday to strengthen ties in the strategic areas of Defence and counter-terrorism. A total of nine agreements were signed in the areas of film co-production, cyber security, and oil and gas between the two countries on Monday. On the Spike missile, the two sides discussed the possibility of procuring the weapon for the Indian Army under a new format. While the contours of the procurement of the missile, including the quantity, transfer of technology and other aspects, have been left for the officials to discuss, there was a general agreement between the two sides to take forward the issue once again after the Defence Ministry had cancelled the deal. The Defence Ministry had earlier desired to buy 321 launchers and 8,356 Spike missiles from Rafael Advanced Defence System for the Indian Army. However, the idea was shelved after the Defence Research and Development Organisation announced it can make such missiles at home. It is learnt that India may still go for the deal under Government-to-Government purchase. Under this, number of Spike Missiles might be lesser but India may get the advantage of transfer of technology to help indigenous production of the missile. “PM Modi hoped that more Defence companies will come forward with transfer of technology,” Vijay Gokhale, Secretary, Economic Relations, said after the talks. “In Defence, I have invited Israeli companies to take advantage of the liberalised FDI regime to make more in India with our companies. Second, we are venturing into less explored areas of cooperation, such as oil and gas, cyber security, films, and start-ups. And third, we are committed to facilitating the flow of people and ideas between our geographies…We are working with Israel to make it easier for our people to work and visit each other’s countries, including for longer work durations,” Modi said, while summing up the talks, in a Press statement. The joint statement too reflected the mood for collaboration and joint ventures in the Defence sector under the Make-in-India initiative. The Defence Ministries of the two countries will be now holding discussions sometime this year to initiate active involvement of the public and private sectors, for viable, sustainable and long-term cooperation in the Defence industry. Similarly, collaboration in the cyber-security field is expected to be intense between India and Israel with sharing of information and training of experts. Indian Ambassador to Israel Pawan Kapoor explained that this cooperation was so far between the private companies of the two countries, but now it has been expanded at the Government level. In the oil and gas sector, the two sides will explore opportunities for joint projects, including collaboration in upstream sector activities. Two countries will hold the next meeting of the Joint Working Groups on Homeland and Public Security in February. The two PMs also affirmed their commitment to fight terrorism together. “Recognising the grave threat that terrorism poses to peace and security, including from non-state actors, both PMs reiterated that there can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever and advocated strong measures against terrorists, terror organisations, those who sponsor, encourage or finance terrorism or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups,” the joint statement said. “We want our people to be safe and secure. We remember Mumbai (terror attack of 2008). We grind our teeth and we fight back,” Netanyahu said. On the sensitive issue of Palestine, the two PMs discussed the developments pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process. “They reaffirmed support for an early resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians for arriving at a comprehensive negotiated solution on all outstanding issues, based on mutual recognition and effective security arrangements, for establishing a just and durable peace in the region,” the joint statement said. Netanyahu offered Israel’s cutting edge technology for the improvement of agriculture and water conservation. On improving trade and investment, the two sides agreed for an early conclusion of negotiations for Free-Trade Agreement, and a Bilateral Investment Treaty. Netanyahu is on a six-day reciprocatory visit to India to mark the culmination of commemorative year to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations between India and Israel. “As our first honoured guest in 2018, your visit marks a special beginning to our New Year calendar,” Modi said while welcoming the Israeli PM and his wife. Responding to Modi’s hospitality and warmth, Netanyahu quipped, “PM Modi anytime if you want to do yoga, it will be big stretch, but I will be there.”

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