India, Israel to deepen military cooperation amid border row
Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Friday spoke with his Israeli counterpart Lieutenant General Benjamin Gantz over telephone with strengthening bilateral defence ties being the focus of the conversation, at a time India is making emergency military purchases from several countries including Israel to bolster the military’s capabilities amid border tensions with China in eastern Ladakh.
The border row was also discussed, officials said.
“Both ministers expressed satisfaction at the progress of strategic cooperation between the two countries and discussed possibilities of further strengthening defence engagements,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
Singh updated Gantz on the situation along the contested Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, where Indian and China have lately failed to make a breakthrough in reducing border tensions despite intense negotiations at the military and diplomatic levels, and the disengagement process at some friction points has virtually stopped, people familiar with the developments said.
The border conflict with China has forced India to speed up the purchase of military hardware including fighter jets, smart air-to-ground weapons, missiles, rockets, multi-mission drones, air defence systems, GPS-guided artillery ammunition, tank ammunition and even assault rifles.
The United States, Russia, France and Israel are among the countries that India plans to import the weaponry from.
India is looking at sourcing from Israel the Firefly loitering ammunition, Spike anti-tank guided missiles, Spice guidance kits that can mounted on standard bombs to convert them into smart weapons and an operational surface-to-air missile system as a 2017 order worth $2 billion for such advanced systems to take down hostile aircraft and missiles hasn’t translated into deliveries yet, the officials said.
Israel has been a reliable military partner and has stood by India, said Air Marshal KK Nohwar (retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies. “Israel has always given us niche technologies in areas of electronic warfare systems and weapons systems that were not readily forthcoming from other countries,” Nohwar said.
The government has authorised the armed forces to process cases for buying urgently-needed weapons and equipment worth up to Rs 300 crore to meet their critical operational requirements. The decision was taken at a special meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council --- India’ apex procurement body --- on July 15 to fast-track key purchases.
Singh sought greater participation of Israeli defence companies in the defence manufacturing sector under the new liberalised foreign direct investment (FDI) regime, the statement said.
From raising FDI in defence manufacturing to creating a separate budget for buying locally-made military hardware and notifying a list of weapons/equipment that cannot be imported, the government in May announced a raft of measures to boost self-reliance in the defence sector.
In early July, the defence ministry approved the purchase of weapons and ammunition worth Rs 38,900 crore. The cost of military hardware cleared for purchase from the domestic industry is pegged at Rs 31,130 crore and the orders are expected to give a push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ (Self-Reliant India Movement).