India has no plans to conduct military exercises with Israel even as it works to strengthen military-to-military contacts with that country, official sources here said.
"There are no plans at all to conduct joint exercises with the Israeli defence forces," said a highly placed source familiar with the thinking in the highest levels of the external affairs ministry.
"We will, however, maintain high level military-to-military contacts with Israel that are mutually beneficial," the source told IANS.
The external affairs ministry was particularly miffed after Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, told the Jerusalem Post newspaper during a visit to Israel this month that he had received a "positive" response for a proposal to conduct joint manoeuvres.
After Krishnaswamy's comments were highlighted by a New Delhi-based daily, the IAF clarified last week that the air force chief had not signed any formal agreement or taken any decision on holding joint exercises.
Israel has emerged a major supplier of hi-tech military hardware like pilot-less spy planes and sophisticated sensors and radars that have been deployed along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir to prevent terrorist incursions.
India has also signed a $1.1 billion deal with Israel to acquire three Phalcon airborne warning and control systems.
New Delhi is keen to ensure that it continues to have access to such sophisticated Israeli hardware as well as continue cooperation with Tel Aviv in areas like sharing of intelligence, said officials of the defence and external affairs ministries.
At the same time, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's coalition government is keen to be seen as balancing its strategic ties with Israel with New Delhi's traditional friendly relations with the Arab world.
"We do need cutting edge technologies like the radars and thermal imaging systems that are being used in Kashmir and would like to keep up high-level contacts with the Israelis," said a defence ministry official.
The Left parties, which provide crucial support to the government from outside, have been particularly critical of India's military ties with Israel.
But Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has ruled out any dilution of the strategic and military ties with Israel.
India this month sent its Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed as a special envoy to meet Palestine President Yasser Arafat. And shortly thereafter, Manmohan Singh met prominent Jewish leaders in New York.