A high-level Israeli delegation meeting with senior Defence Ministry officials here July 19-20 demanded that New Delhi set a deadline for finalizing ongoing defense projects with Tel Aviv, according to ministry sources.
Baljit Singh Menon, deputy spokesman for the Indian Defence Ministry, confirmed that Israeli defense officials are here, but he refused to give details about their meetings with Indian counterparts.
However, Defence Ministry sources said Israel warned the new United Progressive Alliance government here that a date for decisions on the projects must be set and met or Israel will sell the armaments to other countries. No deadline was specified during the meetings.
Negotiations for the supply of Israeli products for more than two dozen Indian defense programs are in various stages of approval with the Defence Ministry here. However, Israelis are uneasy because negotiations have been slow since May elections here, which brought into power a new government allied with India’s pro-Palestinian Communists. These concerns make it unlikely that India will get top-of-the-line avionics or hardware from Israel for some time, the Defence Ministry sources said.
India has proposed leasing imagery from Israel’s Ofeq-5 military satellite and is negotiating to buy a variety of Israeli products, including Arrow-2 air defense systems; Python air-to-air missiles; Heron unmanned aerial vehicles, and aircraft upgrades.
A senior Indian Defence Ministry official said that India cannot afford to lose Israel’s help in getting defense equipment, whatever the shape of the government in New Delhi. Israel in the last five years has become India’s second largest defense supplier after Russia.
A senior leader of the Communist party here told Defense News on July 20 that the party will not force the government to reverse its defense ties with Israel, though politically the party’s support of the Palestinian people remains unchanged.