Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Israel defence links grow


A high-level team from the Israel defence establishment will hold talks here tomorrow with Indian military and security officials on missile shield, cyber warfare and electronic surveillance as they chart the course for bilateral military ties over the next two years.
Neither New Delhi nor Tel Aviv advertises the intensity of their defence relationship, but the frequency of visits and booming arms sales by Israel are evidence of how robust the ties are.

This is the second visit by a high-level Israeli military team to India this month. The chief of the Israeli defence forces, Lt General Gabi Ashkenazi, visited Delhi in the second week of December.
Earlier in November, India’s chief of army staff and the chairman, chiefs of staff committee, General Deepak Kapoor, had visited Israel.

The Israeli delegation to tomorrow’s meeting of a joint working group on defence co-operation will be led by Brigadier General (retired) Pinchas Buchris, the director general in Tel Aviv’s defence ministry. Buchris last visited India in January 2008.The Indian side will be led by defence secretary Praveen Kumar.

Buchris is likely to step down in January following an offer to resign amid a row over appointments with Israel defence minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

For nearly three years now, Buchris has been overseeing Israel’s defence relationship with India, Tel Aviv’s biggest buyer of arms, ammunition and security systems. Israel’s military sales to India in the last five years have topped $5 billion.

The sales could, however, be affected because of a ban on trading with Israeli Military Industries (IMI), which supplies special forces equipment and has joint ventures with India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to manufacture ammunition. The ban was imposed pending investigation into charges that the Israel government-owned firm was close to the former chief of the OFB who was arrested on charges of accepting bribes.

The issue of the blacklisting of the IMI is likely to figure in the talks because not only is it affecting sales, it could also be counter-productive for the Indian military that uses Israeli military hardware in large measure.

Also on the table for discussions are a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aircraft Industries to co-produce a long-range surface-to-air missile for the Indian Navy and a medium-range surface-to-air missile for the Indian Air Force.

The initial cost of the long-range missile project is estimated to be over Rs 2,600 crore and that of the medium-range project nearly Rs 11,000 crore.

Buchris is scheduled to meet defence minister A.K. Antony, national security adviser M.K. Narayanan, the chiefs of the armed forces and DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat, who is also the scientific adviser to the defence minister.

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