Tuesday, January 1, 2008

India, Israel to focus on joint R&D in defence

There may be a few hiccups, political or otherwise, along the way but India and Israel will now 'further intensify' their already robust defence ties, which saw New Delhi do military business worth over a whopping $7 billion with Tel Aviv since the 1999 Kargil conflict.

From man-portable miniature UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and advanced radars to missile systems and electronic warfare suites, the two nations have decided to focus on more and more joint R&D projects rather than just continue with a mere buyer-seller kind of relationship, said sources.

This came at the end of the Indo-Israel joint working group (JWG) on defence, co-chaired by defence secretary Vijay Singh and his Israeli counterpart Brigadier-General (retired) Pinchas Buchris, on Monday and Tuesday. India, of course, is already Israel's largest defence customer, with purchases worth $1.5 billion in 2006 alone, displacing even the US to the second spot with $1 billion.

The strategic ties with Israel, which even includes regular intelligence-sharing for counter-terrorism, are however kept largely under wraps due to the domestic and international sensitivities involved.

"India will spend around $30 billion in defence purchases over the next five years. With its expertise in high-tech sub-systems, avionics, radars and missile systems, Israel is very keen to work with India in several areas," said a source. The Israeli delegation assured India that the huge 'Phalcon' AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) project, worth $1.1 billion, was now progressing on schedule after being hit by some delays.

The first of the three Phalcons, which will act as potent "eyes in the skies" to detect enemy air intrusions as well as direct fighters in aerial combat, will now arrive in India towards August-September.

"Israel will get the refurbished IL-76 aircraft, with more powerful engines, from Russia later this month for integration of the Phalcon early-warning radar and communication system on it," said the source.

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