India's Navy chief flies in to Israel ahead of historic Modi visit

India has become a major purchaser of Israeli military hardware, with defense trade reaching more than one billion dollars a year.

Indian Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba (photo credit: ARUN SANKAR / AFP)
Indian Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba
(photo credit: ARUN SANKAR / AFP)
Just weeks before Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s planned historic visit next month, the head of the India’s navy, Adm. Sunil Lanba, arrived in Israel Monday for four days of talks aimed at boosting bilateral military cooperation.
Lanba will meet with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Naval commander Maj.- Gen. Eli Sharvit, Air Force chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel and ground forces commander, Maj.-Gen. Kobi Barak.
The chairman of India’s chiefs of staff committee (CoSC) also will meet with high-ranking officials of Israel’s Defense Ministry and visit Haifa Naval Base and other military sites.
“Since the renewal of formal diplomatic relations in 1992, defense cooperation has been one of the main pillars of bilateral engagement between the two nations,” The Hindustan Times reported, quoting a Defense Ministry statement.
India has become a major purchaser of Israeli military hardware in recent years with Israel supplying New Delhi with weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
In the last five years, defense trade between the two countries has averaged more than $1 billion annually.
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“India has been importing critical defense technologies from Israel. In addition, both the armed forces and the Defense Ministry have been cooperating through the medium of staff talks, Joint Working Group and exchange of high-level visits,” the newspaper said.
Indian Air Force chief Arup Raha visited in March, meeting at that time with then-defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon.
In May, three Indian warships docked at the Haifa port for three days and Rear-Adm.
R.B. Pandit told journalists at the time that a number of significant defense acquisitions have been made from Israel, making specific reference to the Barak-8 missile system, which he said “provides the Indian Navy new and greater air-defense capabilities.”
Trade and economic relations with India have progressed rapidly in the past two decades, with a significant increase in the past year.
In April, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced that it signed a $1.6 billion mega-contract with the Indian Army for medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) advanced air and missile defense systems, as well as additional long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) air and missile defense systems for Indian aircraft carriers – largest contract in the history of the country’s defense industry.
Modi is expected to sign additional arms deals when he visits in early July.