More defence deals with Israel on Modi’s agenda

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Jun 2017 09:00:49


 

By Rashmi Saksena,

THE “love affair” between New Delhi-Tel Aviv is not only out of the closet but is being brazenly brandished for all to see. Israel has for long wanted to put an end to the hush-hush relationship India has carried on for about two decades. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel (July4-6) will go beyond commemorating 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations.


As the first Indian PM to visit Tel Aviv he will show the world that New Delhi now wants to wear its love for Israel on its sleeve and as importantly it is no longer hyphenating it with its relationship with Palestine. Modi’s trip to Israel does not include a carry on visit to Palestine.


India and Israel have been doing business in arms, other military hardware, Intelligence gathering equipment and Intelligence sharing, agriculture and trade for many years. In 1999-2009 India did a US$ 9 billion military business with Israel. They shared Intelligence on terrorist groups and held joint military training. The interaction between the two’s Intelligence outfits, RAW and MOSSAD is said to date back to the days when former PM Indira Gandhi saw to the creation of RAW. In 2014 bi-lateral trade, excluding military, was US $ 4.25 billion. Evidently the two enjoy an extensive economic, military and strategic relationship which India remained coy about till the Modi-led NDA assumed power.


Since then the bi-lateral relationship has shifted to the over-drive gear and moved into the fast lane. Modi has with many actions shown that he seriously believes that there is a natural affinity between the two nations. Besides many other things which call for creating strong strategic alliances one is the rise of Islamic terrorism which greatly affects both. Since Modi’s becoming PM, India and Israel have signed a series of defence and technology deals. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched a military satellite for Israel.


Israel’s state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has inked a major US $630 million deal with India to supply LRSAM (Long Range Surface to Air Missiles) systems for four ships of the Indian Navy. LRSAM is an advanced air and missile defence system. Israel closed a US $2 billion defence deal with India (the biggest in its history) to supply the Indian Army and Navy with missile defence systems.


The deal will provide India with an advanced defence system of medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology, the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries said in a statement on Wednesday. The Israeli firm will also supply a naval defence system including long-range surface-to-air missiles for India’s first aircraft carrier, which is still under construction. The relationship has gone beyond buying arms and defence equipment. There is great cooperation in the field of Agriculture and water management.


PM Modi’s visit is likely to see more defence deals including procurement of an air defence system for the Indian Navy and the Barak-8 air defence missile systems for the Navy and procurement of Spike anti-tank missiles for the Indian Army. A Rs 17,000 crore deal for jointly developing with Israel a medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) for the Army is also expected to be announced.


Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu are no strangers. Both are understood to have forged a friendship rare between world leaders. Modi is learnt to have maintained close ties with Israel when he was Gujarat Chief Minister. He also visited the country in October 2006. The two have met twice in other countries on the sidelines of UN related events. Both now maintain close contact over the telephone.


When Modi met Netanyahu during the Paris Climate summit in November 2015 he reportedly said “I am happy that often we can talk easily on telephone, we can discuss everything. It has very rarely happened. In your case it has happened”. Netanyahu s reply was as warm. “In your case too”. Both of them have been tweeting too. On Hanukkah festival Modi greeted Netanyahu in Hebrew. Not to be out done he replied in Hindi.


Over the years the bi-lateral relationship has become multidimensional. Israel Prime Minister has spoken about his interest in engaging with India not only on military and defence matters but also in the field of IT, energy, agriculture, water management and technology. Modi and Netanyahu are scheduled to hold discussions on matters of mutual interest during the visit.

Modi will also call on Israel President Rivlin. The much discussed “close chemistry” between Modi and Netanyahu is expected to yield substantial mutually beneficial results when an Indian Prime Minister visits Israel for the first time ever after dilomaic relations were established between the two nations in 1992.