Israeli Defence Minister’s Visit to India

As both nations marked 30 years of excellent ties, visit of the Israeli Defence Minister gave an opportunity to review the full range of India-Israel relations and reiterate their commitment to expanding cooperation for the security & prosperity of both nations

Issue 4 - 2022 By Ranjit KumarPhoto(s): By PIB, rajnathsingh / Twitter
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Israel, Benjamin Gantz calls on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on June 2, 2022

Last October, India and Israel decided to set up a task force to put together a comprehensive 10-year roadmap to identify new areas of cooperation. Seven months later both countries have added a new dimension to bolster their vibrant defence ties, by issuing a new landmark vision statement. The 10-year roadmap was prepared after the India – Israel Joint Working Group on defence cooperation headed by the Indian Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar who with his Israeli counterpart, Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Defence, Major General Amir Eshel (Retd) reviewed the progress in ongoing programmes. Giving a further boost to this cooperation, a letter of Intent on enhancing cooperation in the field of Futuristic Defence Technologies was also exchanged between the latest June 2 meeting of the two defence Ministers, Rajnath Singh and Benny Gantz.

Benjamin Gantz who arrived in New Delhi on June 1, marking three decades of diplomatic relations between the two nations was received by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on June 2, 2022. Gantz received a Tri-service Guard of Honour in the presence of Rajnath Singh and also laid a wreath at the National War Memorial.

The Israeli defence Minister also had the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to an Israeli Embassy statement, “During his meeting with Prime Minister Modi, Minister Gantz emphasised the opportunity to invest further in defence cooperation between the two countries, while building on shared values in order to contribute to global stability. This was Benny Gantz’s first visit to India with an aim to strengthen the defence ties between the two countries. A high-level delegation accompanied Minister Gantz, which included his Chief of Staff Maayan Israeli, Military Secretary Brigadier General Yaki Dolf, Director of the Policy and POL-MIL Bureau Dror Shalom and Head of the International Defence Cooperation Directorate Yair Kulas.

Both the countries have been monitoring joint defence projects and programmes through Joint Working Group, the apex body for promoting defence cooperation. Along with JWG, both countries have also set up Sub Working Groups (SWG) on defence industry cooperation for which a Terms of Reference was agreed. The SWG would keep a close eye on the efficient utilisation of bilateral resources, effective flow of technologies and sharing industrial capabilities.

Defence cooperation has been one of the significant pillars of the bilateral cooperation. Israel has emerged as one of the top three arms supplier to India for the last five years, especially cutting-edge weapons technology, which could not have been sourced elsewhere. According to a March, 2021 SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) report, Israel accounted for 13 per cent of India’s imports during 2016-20 after Russia (49 per cent) and France (18 per cent).

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Israel, Benjamin Gantz calls on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, in New Delhi on June 2, 2022

In this backdrop, the decision to use India as production base for high tech Israeli defence systems is of utmost significance for Indian defence industry. The combination of Israeli defence technology with Indians killed manpower and huge Industrial infrastructure can work wonders and will help India emerge as a leading supplier of defence systems. The Russia Ukraine war will usher in a new wave of militarisation which will lead to high demand of defence systems, all over the world, especially in Europe. This will lead to increased demands of modern weapon systems and platforms.

The visit of Israeli defence minister to India happened on the occasion of completion of 30 years of establishment of diplomatic relations, which is likely to be followed soon by the earlier postponed visit of the new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Both defence ministers reiterated their commitment to deepening and expanding defence cooperation by presenting a vision for future collaborations outlined in the joint statement. According to an Indian defence official, this will also help India achieve the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self dependent India) in defence industry.

Defence cooperation has been one of the significant pillars of the bilateral cooperation. Israel has emerged as one of the top three arms supplier to India for the last five years, especially cuttingedge weapons technology, which could not have been sourced elsewhere.

According to an Israeli Embassy spokesperson, the Ministers conducted a discussion that covered topics including strategic global challenges, military cooperation, defence industrial cooperation and joint R&D. They also discussed a cooperation agreement signed between the Indian DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) and Israel’s Directorate for Defence R&D, which will enable the expansion of technological collaboration and development between the countries. Minister Gantz acknowledged India as an industrial superpower and said Israel is a technological superpower – cooperation between our countries will expand the capabilities of both countries to contend with developing challenges.

According to the statement by Indian defence ministry, the two ministers declared their intention to further develop defence cooperation in a manner that harnesses Israel’s “technological advance and operational experience”, together with India’s “extraordinary development and production capabilities, which would be in line with Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ vision.”

This means that Indian and Israeli defence companies would be jointly producing weapon systems in India, which can not only be used for supply to Indian armed forces but for international market also. Rajnath Singh and Benny Gantz also discussed partnerships within the Government-to-Government framework, military training, and technological cooperation with a focus on UAVs and defensive capabilities.

Benny Gantz also had a significant meeting with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Both leaders reflected on developing global challenges and shared operational priorities. They also explored joint ventures that will further deepen cooperation and enhance the capabilities of both defence establishments. Later, Benny Gantz paid his respects at the burial place of Lieutenant General J.F.R. Jacob, one of the most well known military leaders in India’s history, and a fellow Jew. He also connected with the local Jewish community by visiting the Judah Hayam Hall Synagogue in New Delhi and reaffirmed the State of Israel’s eternal bond with the Jewish diaspora and its commitment to the security of Jews around the world.

The decision to use India as production base for high tech Israeli defence systems is of utmost significance for Indian defence industry. The combination of Israeli defence technology with Indian skilled manpower and huge Industrial infrastructure can work wonders and will help India emerge as a leading supplier of defence systems.

India-Israel defence cooperation, Israel has been helping Indian public sector defence companies in developing state-of-the-art weapon systems and technology. Israel has been assisting India develop anti-ballistic missile systems with its Greenpine radar almost two decades ago. Similarly, Israel has equipped Indian AWACS system with its Phalcon radar, which has been denied to China. Besides, there are many joint development projects in the pipeline, one of which includes the Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missile also called Barak-8 for the Indian Navy’s warships. This has already been completed and is being inducted in the armed forces. Another significant project that has been agreed is the MoU between Indian HAL and Israeli IAI to convert Boeing 767 civil aircraft to mid-air refuelling role for the Indian Air Force.

India-Israel defence cooperation has thus proved to be a game changer for Indian armed forces. The advanced state-of-the-art defence technology has helped India fight the Pakistani intruders in Kargil in 1999. When Indian air force was unable to target the icy heights of Kargil, occupied by Pakistani army in the guise of militant intruders, Israel immediately responded to Indian request by supplying its laser pods to be fitted on the Mirage 2000 fighters.

Giving a further boost to the existing cooperation, a letter of Intent on enhancing cooperation in the field of Futuristic Defence Technologies was exchanged

Similarly, Israeli government helped Indian army increase its surveillance and combat capabilities with urgent supplies of four Heron-TP medium altitude long endurance UAVs on lease, for deployment on India-China border areas to counter Chinese aggressiveness, which have now been formally inducted in the Army. India-Israel defence relationship can be said to have developed into most close among all Indian defence partners, as Israel has always stood by in difficult times.