- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

JERUSALEM — Israel’s security Cabinet on Sunday approved the $1.1 billion sale of three airborne radar systems to India, the biggest move yet in a burgeoning military relationship between the two democracies.

India’s longtime rival, Pakistan, protested the sale of the Israeli-made Phalcon systems, which are modeled on the U.S. Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), one of the most sensitive systems in the American arsenal.

The Bush administration blocked Israel from selling the Phalcon system to China early last year but has approved the latest deal, which follows India’s purchases of Barak (Lightning) sea-to-sea missiles and laser-guided bombs, also manufactured by the state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. (IAI).

Israel was the second-biggest exporter of weaponry to India even before the Phalcon sale, which at one stroke more than doubles Israel’s $720.2 million in total exports to India in the past year.

For the Phalcon sale, IAI’s sophisticated electronic and avionics systems will be mounted on Ilyushin-76 aircraft purchased from Uzbekistan. New and more powerful jet engines are being installed.

“When operational, [the Phalcons] will be able to detect air and sea targets simultaneously, including hostile aircraft over any terrain,” an IAI official said.

Pakistan, which has fought three wars with India, said the sale “will accentuate strategic and conventional imbalance in South Asia.”

Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan told state television that such transactions “undermine the spirit of peace and stability being pushed by Pakistan, India and the international community in the region.”

First Secretary Sabrata Das at the Indian Embassy in Israel said before the announcement yesterday that his country’s commercial contacts with Israel were purely “pragmatic and businesslike,” stressing that they “do not impinge on other Indian relationships,” presumably including those with Pakistan and China.

Nevertheless, India’s neighbors have watched nervously as the South Asian giant has opened negotiations with Israel on its antimissile technology — especially the Arrow projectile developed in conjunction with the United States — and expressed interest in a joint space venture.

The latter project would use an Indian space vehicle to launch scientific equipment developed at Tel Aviv University.

India’s most important previous weapons purchase in Israel was the Barak-1, produced by the IAI and RAFAEL — a Hebrew acronym that stands for Combat Weapons Development Authority.

The Barak-1 can intercept aircraft at seven miles and is said to be effective against Pakistan’s U.S.-made P3-CII Orion strike aircraft.

Israel also has offered the Indian navy advanced radar equipment with a detection range of 30 nautical miles and the ELM-2022 A, which can track 100 targets at a time and can be fitted on airborne platforms.

Other Israeli weapons systems thought to be of interest to India include the long-range Green Pine radar system, which can identify missile launchers at great distances, and the EL/M-2080 search, acquisition and fire-control radar, which was developed in conjunction with the U.S.-Israeli Arrow project.

According to Efraim Inbar, director of Bar-Ilan University’s BESA Center for Strategic Studies (BESA is short for Begin-Sadat), the United States is the largest exporter of weaponry to India, with Israel second and France third.

Russia, which was India’s top weapons supplier throughout the Cold War, lost its pre-eminence after the collapse of the Soviet Union because “it was unable to deliver on budget and on schedule,” Mr. Inbar said.

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