(Adds details, background)
By Ori Lewis
JERUSALEM, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday during a tour of India he had been informed by the Indian government that it had decided to put a major anti-tank missile deal back on track.
There was no immediate comment from Indian authorities. Earlier this month, Israel’s state-owned defence contractor Rafael said India’s Ministry of Defence had cancelled the deal worth about $500 million to buy Spike anti-tank guided missiles.
“Following talks I have held with my friend, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian government has informed us that it is putting the Spike deal back on track. This is very important and there will be many more deals,” Netanyahu said in a brief video statement during his five-day visit to India.
There were no additional details of how the deal might be consummated but Israel’s Channel 1 television said the original half-billion-dollar value would be cut in half.
Netanyahu is making the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to India for 15 years and Modi’s nationalist government has rolled out the red carpet, regarding Israel as an ally in the fight against terrorism.
Netanyahu and Modi have pledged to deepen economic and security ties in a more open embrace of the relationship which New Delhi had long kept at a low profile, largely for fear of upsetting Arab nations on which it depends for oil.
Israel has given initial approval for Indian energy companies to explore oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean. Bilateral trade has jumped from $200 million in 1992, when the two countries opened diplomatic relations, to $4.16 billion in 2016, largely in favour of Israel.
Israel has emerged as one of India’s biggest suppliers of weapons alongside the United States and long-term partner Russia. Last year, Modi made a first trip to Israel by an Indian prime minister ever. (Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Mark Heinrich)