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New Delhi looks at new missile deal with Israel

India is believed to have reached a 1.9 billion dollar deal with an Israeli company for the supply and joint development of medium-range surface-to-air missiles. The defence ministry is yet to officially confirm the deal, but sources in the department of defence research and development (DRDO) said it was likely to go ahead.

The joint development of the 70-kilometre MR-SAM missile project would be carried out by India’s DRDO and the Israeli Aircraft Industries.

The Israeli company also manufactures Barak missile systems and the DRDO is hoping that collaboration with the IAI will help it develop these missiles within four to five years.

Indian left-wing parties have raised objections to the proposed deal.

Two prominent Communist leaders Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan sent a letter to the prime minister in February alleging bribes were paid to clinch the Barak surface-to-air missile interceptor deal in 2000 and that there is evidence of remittances paid by Israel Aircraft Industries.

The left leaders alleged that the MR-SAM deal had been signed despite the fact that the DRDO already had the capacity to make advanced air defence missiles.

In 2007, defence minister A.K. Antony told parliament that India had made defence purchases worth more than 5 billion dollars from Israel from 2002 to 2007.

Indian naval sources said that Israeli Barak missiles, Derby missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare equipment are either already being used by the Indian navy or are in the process of being bought.

The Barak missiles are surface-to-air precision-guided missiles with a short range of about 10 kilometres and are very effective missile interceptors used as the last layer of defence to destroy an advancing missile.

The Indian military regards Israel as a reliable defence partner.

In August 2007 an Indian cabinet approved two arms deals worth 1.7 billion dollars with Israeli companies to upgrade the country's missile defence systems.

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