WASHINGTON, Sept 7: On the eve of the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to India starting on Monday, a Washington think tank has argued strongly against the sale of the Arrow anti-ballistic missile defence system to New Delhi.

The system, developed jointly by the United States and Israel, needs American approval before it can be sold to a third country.

India has expressed an interest in buying the missiles but has not yet put in a formal request. But expecting such a request, Israel has sought Washington’s permission to sell the Arrows to India.

Israel is already the second largest arms exporter to India with deals worth more than $1 billion. India is also buying Phalcon airborne early warning system, worth $1 billion a piece, from Israel.

A Washington think tank, however, argues that the sale of the Arrow anti-ballistic missile defence system to India would backfire on US and Israeli interests.

Richard Speier, a former Pentagon expert on missile non-proliferation, who authored the report “Arrows for India?” for the Washington Institute, urges the US not to allow the sale.

He points out that the Arrow is not India’s only missile defence option. Russia is discussing the sale of the comparable S300V system, and Washington could offer the Patriot missiles, made famous by Gulf War I.

The author fears that if India gains an advantage in missile defence, “it might behave more recklessly toward Pakistan,” which would accelerate the South Asian nuclear arms race.

This would also incur Pakistan’s displeasure, which could hit US-Pakistani co-operation on Afghanistan and counter-terrorism.

The sale of the Arrow will harm the non-proliferation movement and “could also hurt America’s efforts to define illicit missile exports in its new Proliferation Security Initiative.”

The author asserts: “India has a record of diversion of sensitive technology. India diverted the engine of a Soviet air defence missile, the SA-2, to make the offensive Prithvi ballistic missile. It also diverted the design of a US space-launch rocket, the Scout, to make the Agni medium-range ballistic missile.”

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