India and the US are to hold a meeting of the bilateral Defense Policy Group in Washington DC, this week.
The meeting happens to come shortly after the Indian Defense Acqusitions Council, chaired by Defense Minister Arun Jaitley, decided to proceed with a proposal to purchase the Spike Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) systems from the Israeli defense company, Rafael, on Saturday.
This purchase of 321 launchers and 8,356 missiles at a cost of INR 3,200 crore or USD 520 million comes as an apparent snub to the US offer for co-development and production of the Javelin ATGM under the aegis of the Indo-US Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).
With licensed production of additional units by India’s Bharat Dynamics, the order for Spike ATGMs is expected to be ultimately worth INR 20,000 crore or USD 3.2 billion.
The DTTI is also expected to be discussed at the DPG meeting, besides the Indo-US Defense Framework Agreement, which is expected to be concluded in November. The meeting is expected to be co-chaired by the Indian Defense Secretary, RK Mathur and the US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Christine Wormuth.
The DPG is an umbrella panel that has several sub-groups including the Defence Joint Working Group (DJWG), Defence Procurement and Production Group (DPPG), Senior Technology Security Group (STSG), Joint Technical Group (JTG), Military Cooperation Group (MCG) and the Service-to-Service Executive Steering Groups (ESGs).
While there has been no official reaction from the US on the selection of the Israeli ATGM, observers indicate that the US would be sore at the decision, coming soon after the high-profile visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US and just before the DPG meeting.
The US has been pursuing a sale of the Javelin to India for some time. The US Army deployed the system during its Exercise Yudh Abhyas with the Indian Army in Babina in October 2009. The US has since offered to co-develop and co-produce a fourth generation version of the Javelin ATGM under the DTTI. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said after meeting Prime Minster Modi and Defense Minister Arun Jaitely during a visit to New Delhi in August, “This is an unprecedented offer that we have made only to India, and no one else.”
The Indian Army currently operates the MBDA-built Milan and Russian Konkurs ATGMs and has a fifty percent shortfall in its authorized inventory of a little over 81,000 ATGMs.