Senior officials of Israel’s military-industrial complex would be in a delegation expected to hold talks with the defence ministry tomorrow, official sources said today.
The visit comes close on the heels of visits by senior Indian military officials, including the vice chief of army staff Lt General Shantonu Choudhary and Vice Admiral Arun Prakash, who is due to take over as the navy chief on July 31.
India-Israel military ties continue to grow despite both sides being cagey about publicising the relationship. This is the first time that a senior Israeli defence delegation will be visiting New Delhi since the United Progressive Alliance government took over. The Congress’ major ally, the Left has been critical of the growing ties with Israel and has been steadfast in its support for the Palestine Liberation Organisation. But defence minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that India’s security considerations were paramount and that its military relations would be guided by that token.
Talks with the Israeli defence team will focus on acquisition of Barak missiles for Indian warships and joint development in projects. India’s premier defence firm, Hindustan Aeronautics, has already entered into an agreement with Israeli Aircraft Industry that is marketing the HAL-manufactured Advanced Light Helicopter.
New Delhi has bought unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel and is understood to be negotiating purchases of more surveillance systems such as sensors, night vision and remote sensing devices. Some of the IAF Russian-origin fighters are also being upgraded with Israeli avionics.
Israel is a distant second to Russia as a supplier of military equipment to India. About 70 per cent of Indian military hardware is sourced from Russia or from the former Soviet Union countries. But India is Israel’s largest buyer of military equipment. Israel packages its military trade with India into its diplomatic ties.
India-Israel military trade is now estimated to have crossed $ 10 billion. The latest acquisition signed was for five Phalcon airborne early warning and control systems in a $ 1.5 billion deal.
Last September, a major Israeli delegation that had come to Delhi, sought and got an assurance from the then defence minister George Fernandes that information on military ties and military technology would be kept confidential. The Israelis had asked for the assurance because it was not very comfortable with India’s diplomatic relations with Iran. Israel accuses Tehran of backing Hizbollah militants in its territory.
Israel has proposed to India that it can consider participating in a development programme for a conventional submarine. India and Israel are also understood to have agreed to collaborate on developing a short-range missile.