May 22: The talks between India and Pakistan have not yet begun, but the US is already rewarding New Delhi for its initiative to resume a dialogue with Islamabad.
A state department official said in Washington today that “recent developments have eased concerns” about the proposed sale of Phalcon airborne radar systems by Israel to India.
Responding to queries about a report in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, about Washington’s green light for the $1-billion sale, the official said: “We have informed Israel and India that we have no objection to the transfer of Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems (Awacs) to India.”
The official added that “we have been discussing the proposed sale with Israel for several years and have in the past expressed concern that heightened tension between India and Pakistan makes a transfer inadvisable. Finally, recent developments have eased those concerns.”
The contract for Phalcon Awacs will make it the biggest single defence deal concluded by Israel in the last two years. So far, the biggest contract bagged by Israel's weapons industry during that period has been a $700-million job for modernising Turkish army tanks.
Phalcon can destroy incoming missiles provided it is part of Arrow, the world’s only operational anti-ballistic missile defence system. For the moment, its role in India would be limited to early warnings about missiles fired at the country.
The state department official said Washington was continuing to review the sale of Arrow, a product of US-Israeli military collaboration, to India.
The review will take into account merits of the sale, applicable US laws and America’s commitment to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the official said.
The sale of Arrow, unlike Phalcon Awacs, is complicated by the fact that the missile defence system has US parts and technology. The Bush administration will, therefore, have to chart a path for clearing the sale after weighing America’s non-proliferation legislation.
The Phalcon radars will be mounted on Russian-built Ilyushin-76 cargo planes of the Indian Air Force to warn of incoming missiles. If and when the Arrow sale is completed, the Awacs will be integrated into the missile defence system to protect India against those missiles.