Major defense deals to be signed during historic Modi visit to Israel

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July 2, 2017 22:51

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi will land in Jerusalem Tuesday. What's in store for the strategic defense partners?

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Israel and India are marking 25 years of diplomatic ties in 2017.

Israel and India are marking 25 years of diplomatic ties in 2017. . (photo credit:ANNA AHRONHEIM)

Israel and India are expected to sign several major defense deals during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Modi, who is set to arrive on Tuesday in the first-ever visit by a sitting Indian prime minister, has stressed that defense will not be the primary focus of the trip. The two sides are also expected to sign number of agreements in the fields of innovation, development, science, technology and space.

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India and Israel gained independence from Britain within nine months of each other, in 1947 and 1948, respectively.

India voted against the 1947 UN partition plan for Palestine and recognized Israel only in 1950, and its foreign policy was characterized by a pro-Arab stance despite Israeli military aid during its conflicts with China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1965.

It wasn’t until 1992 that the two countries established full diplomatic relations.

Since then, Israel has emerged as a major weapons supplier to India, as well as a trustworthy partner in defense research and development. It is a central player in that country’s military calculations and has worked with India in areas of counter-terrorism, intelligence and cyber security, as well as border and homeland security.

“Defense cooperation has been one of the main pillars of bilateral engagement between the two nations” since the establishment of full diplomatic ties 1992, The Hindustan Times quoted an Indian military statement as saying in May.

Israel has been supplying India with various weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the past few years. Until recently, most of the transactions had been kept quiet, but ties have quietly shifted and in the past five years, defense trade between the two countries has averaged annual sales of over $1 billion.

According to Subhash Bhamre, India’s minister of state for defense, seven of the 37 contracts signed by India for the procurement of weapons and military platforms over the past two years were with Israel. This made the Jewish state India’s second biggest source for weapons after the United States, with nine contracts signed.

Israel has signed several large deals with India in recent months alone.

In April, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was awarded the largest defense contract in the Israeli defense industry’s history after signing a $1.6 billion deal with the Indian Army.

Other contracts went to Rafael, which has called India a “strategic and significant partner.”

In May, IAI signed a $630 million contract with India’s stateowned aerospace and defense firm Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) for a naval version of the Barak 8 aerial defense system for four vessels.

IAI president and CEO Joseph Weiss has stated that “over the past 25 years, IAI has worked with the Indian defense industries and armed forces in many areas as part of our strategic partnership.”

Ahead of Modi’s historic visit, several high-ranking Indian officials made their way to Israel.

In March 2016, air force chief Arup Raha met with then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.

This past May, three warships docked in Haifa for three days, and a month later, Adm. Sunil Lanba, head of the Indian Navy, was in Israel for four days of talks aimed at boosting bilateral military cooperation.

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