Israel Offers India Help with Nuclear Sub Project
Jerusalem December 10, 2003 (JP) - Israel has offered to cooperate with India to develop its indigenous nuclear submarine program, according to an Indian newspaper. Israeli and India officials were silent about the report Wednesday.
The Hindu said an understanding was reached during a visit to Israel by a high-level technical team from the Defense Research and Development Organization in late November.
The issue was first raised during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to India in September, the daily reported, quoting Israeli defense sources.
The report came as Israel and Russia are battling for top spot as India's chief arms supplier. Russia has traditionally held that position, but Israeli defense sales have reportedly surpassed theirs.
India has a defense procurement budget of $4.5 billion and is the world's second-largest importer of military products.
India has been slowly progressing in its endeavor to produce nuclear submarines, known as an ATV (advanced technology vessel). Russia has provided the reactors for two vessels. They are expected to be armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
The Hindu reported that the cooperation with Israel would harm Indo-Russian cooperation in the field. But Russia recently finalized a deal to give New Delhi the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier and lease an Akula II class nuclear submarine to the Indian Navy for three years.
The Russians were counting on making a profit by refitting the carrier with top-of-the-line aircraft and avionics.
India had leased a nuclear submarine from the former Soviet Union from 1988-1991. The skills acquired then have been lost to its navy. It would take approximately 30 months to train another nuclear submarine crew.
The first sub is reportedly expected to be operational in 2007.
Local defense industries have perfected a number of electronics for Israel's own advanced diesel/electric Dolphin class submarines, which could be beneficial for the Indian subs.
A delegation of Indian defense industry executives was here last month to review areas of cooperation. It was the guest of the Defense Ministry department that deals with foreign defense assistance and exports.
Arms trade figures are considered secret, and Israeli defense and aerospace firms, as well as most defense officials are reluctant to comment on their transactions with India.
On Wednesday, Defense Ministry spokeswoman Rachel Niedak-Ashkenazi issued a laconic statement: "The Ministry of Defense does not divulge information regarding its connections with foreign countries."
Queries to the Indian Embassy drew a similar reaction. "As a matter of policy, we don't make any comments on any individual defense deals," said Subrata Das, the first secretary.