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More India-Israel joint defence projects on anvil

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Defence Minister of Israel, Moshe Yaalon, at a meeting in New Delhi. A PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): Reflecting rapid expansion in military ties, Israel has said it was ready to share cutting-edge defence technologies with India and both countries will go for co-development of a number of key weapon systems soon.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon said both countries have overcome hurdles in co-development of Barak 8 missile defence system and work on another key project of aerial defence systems was on track.

At the end of his India visit, Ya'alon said his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar were very "satisfying" and that his country was ready to have manufacturing bases in India for certain weapons systems and military hardware.

India is Israel's largest buyer of military hardware and it was the first visit by any Israeli Defence Minister to this country after they established full diplomatic ties in 1992.

Asked about status of two key projects, Barak 8 missile defence system and aerial defence systems, Ya'alon said both the projects are important and they are going ahead despite having some initial difficulties.

"We are moving forward. We had some difficulties. We overcame it together. Both these projects are important for us," Ya'alon told PTI in an interview here.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are jointly developing the Barak 8 missile defence system.

Asked whether slow decision making process in defence sector in India was affecting certain projects, Ya'alon said, "We have to overcome bureaucratic obstacles in order to do things at higher speed."

Praising Modi's 'Make in India' initiative, he said Israel wants to take advantage of it and added that the NDA government has brought a new vigour to bilateral defence ties.

"Modi's concept of Make in India is encouraging. We are flexible to make everything convenient to India," he said.

Replying to a question on whether Israel was interested in participating in upgrading of India's tank systems, he did not give a specific reply but said "we are interested in all that is proposed by the Indian government and the Defence Ministry".

On whether new defence co-development projects between the two countries are in the works, he replied in the affirmative and said his country was ready to set up manufacturing bases in India.

"Yes, all kind of cooperation, whether it is to share technologies or to manufacture in India," he said.

Israel has supplied various weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years but the transactions have largely remained behind the curtains.

In October, India decided to buy 8,356 Spike anti-tank guided missiles and 321 launchers from Israel for Rs 3,200 crore while rejecting US offer of Javelin missiles.

The Israeli Defence Minister said his country was also looking at cooperation between private sector defence manufacturers of the two countries as there were huge untapped opportunities.

India has already raised the FDI cap in defence sector recently from 26 per cent to 49 per cent with the aim of boosting indigenous defence production.

India imports almost 70 per cent of its defence needs from foreign sources.

Referring to meeting between Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York in September last year on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Ya'alon said both the leaders had set the ball rolling for renewed momentum in bilateral ties.

Identifying terrorism as a major threat facing both the countries, the Israeli Defence Minister said they will cooperate with each other to combat it.

"It's a global challenge. All like minded countries should cooperate. This is the only way to defeat terror. To cooperate intelligence-wise, by sharing technology," he said.

Asked whether Israel was disappointed with India after it supported a UN resolution to launch a probe into the country's offensive on Gaza in July last year, he said, "There have been misunderstandings within the international community to our challenges. We have to defend ourselves from terror outfits."


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