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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Israeli military delegation to visit India to strengthen ties (Lead)

New Delhi, Dec 3 (IANS) An Israeli military delegation will visit India next week to boost defence ties and strengthen the joint counter-terrorism network, officials said.

The two-day visit starts Dec 8. The delegation will be led by Israel’s chief of defence staff, Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi.

“The delegation will meet chiefs of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force and the national security advisor (NSA),” a senior defence official said requesting anonymity for speaking on such sensitive military issues.

Though the government has been circumspect about its military ties with Israel, there have been regular interactions at various levels.

Indian Army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, had visited Tel Aviv last month.

In September 2008, then Israeli army chief, General Avi Mizrahi, visited India and held talks about joint exercises on counter-insurgency and anti-terror operations. He had also made a trip to Jammu and Kashmir.

India is Israel’s biggest customer for weapons and has a longstanding relationship with Tel Aviv. India has bought military hardware and software from Israel worth about $8 billion since the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan.

In 2004, India ordered three Phalcon Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), fitted on Russian-built Ilyushin II-76 aircraft. The first of the AWACS were inducted in the Indian Air Force in May this year. Israel has also sold IAI Malat-built Searcher MkII and IAI Heron unmanned aerial vehicles to the Indian Air Force. The IAI recently upgraded 32 Hind Mi-24 helicopters for the Indian Army.

Rafael is a major company vying for a $10 billion contract for the supply of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft to the Indian Air Force.

In 2008, Rafael won the Indian order for low-level quick reaction missile system (LLQRM), which was competing with the mobile SPYDER (Surface-to-air Python and Derby) short-range air defence system. The company is now competing for India’s quick reaction missile (QRM) and medium range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) order with the SPYDER-SR (short-range) and SPYDER-MR (medium-range) missile systems.

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