India and Israel plan to sign a USD 3 billion weapons deal ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden official visit to Jerusalem.
Sources close to the Indian Defence Ministry have hinted that New Delhi will acquire 164 laser systems for the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Sukhoi-30MKI and Jaguar planes and 250 precision guided bunker busting bombs. Currently, officials of the two countries hold talks on the acquisition of 321 Spike anti-tank guided missile systems and 8,356 missiles.
A senior ministry official said that India and Israel have held 20 meetings as they are yet to resolve issues related to the price. Both the parties have also expressed hope that the agreement will soon be finalised. The official, who wished to remain anonymous, stressed that India is trying hard to bridge the gaps.
After Russia and the US, Israel is one of the largest arms suppliers to the South Asian country with annual deals worth over USD 1 billion. Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon admitted that the defence co-operation has been central pillar of bilateral relationship for many years, saying: “The changing world, changing parameters, changing needs are always something that is on the top of our agenda and always on our radar.”
In the past, the IAF informed the government that it badly required 3rd generation anti-tank missiles to tackle neighbouring Pakistan and China. The Air Force requested the government to acquire the Israeli made “Spike”, instead of the American “Javelin”. According to sources, the Indian government accepted the IAF’s proposal after considering the current security scenario in the region.
Despite reiterating its firm support to the Palestinian cause, India has taken a number of steps to bolster ties with Israel in recent times. Since becoming prime minister of India in May 2014, Narendra Modi has been trying hard to strengthen ties with Israel. Even, India abstained from voting for the adoption of a UN Security Council Resolution on Gaza in 2015. It was the first time when India publicly abstained from a UN vote criticising the Jewish nation in an international forum.
In January, Indian External Affairs Minister Shushma Swaraj met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem to discuss the entire gamut of bilateral ties. Ahead of their meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed Swaraj, saying: “The Middle East’s only democracy welcomes the external affairs minister of the world’s great democracy.” He also hailed the great Indo-Israeli friendship, stressing that bilateral co-operation in science, technology and agriculture was an “opportunity to have a discussion about the challenges we face. Especially the opportunities we face”. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, too, visited Israel in October 2015.