Wednesday, January 03, 2007


$1.5-billion deal makes India top arms buyer from Israel

New Delhi, Jan. 2: India, with a record $1.5 billion procurement, has helped boost Israel’s defence industries to record an all-time sales figure of $4.4 billion in 2006. Military ties have flourished under the UPA government, with India emerging as Israel’s largest client despite opposition by the supporting Left parties who have repeatedly urged a silent Prime Minister to end defence relations with Israel.

A top Israeli defence official, Maj. Gen. Yossi Ben-Hanan, who is the head of SIBAT, the foreign defence assistance and defence export department at the defence ministry, has been quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying that “India was Israel’s biggest customer, with purchases reaching $1.5 billion.” This included what the general described as Israel’s single largest sale to a foreign country through the Israel Aircraft Industries, the Barak Naval anti-missile defence system, which India has purchased for $450 million. Israel has had no hesitation in identifying Indian support as one of the main reasons for its emergence as one of the top five defence exporters in the world.

Israel also appears to have equalled Russia as India’s largest military hardware supplier despite entering the market only a few years ago. Russian exports to India every year, according to sources, is also in the range of $1.5 billion, with the defence relationship between the two countries having become strained since Israel’s entry into the Indian market. Israeli defence exports to India totalled $2.76 billion in the 2002-2005 period, with 2006 registering a record $1.5 billion of sales.

Interestingly, according to the US Congressional Research Service, India has beaten China as the leading importer of conventional weapons. In 2005 India spent $5.4 billion on defence equipment, against China’s $2.8 billion. New Delhi remains tightlipped about the defence relationship with Israel, which has gone “underground” as experts here put it after the Left protests.

This has, however, not stopped New Delhi from inking the deals and sending military delegations, including those headed by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, and the vice-chief of the Navy, Vice-Admiral Venkat Bharathan, to Israel in the past year. Both sides have reaffirmed the strong military ties and agreed to cooperate in research and development projects as well as more defence procurements for advanced radars, long endurance and high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle and electronic warfare systems. News agencies have reported that missiles and anti-missile defence systems remain the priority area.

Defence cooperation has been placed on the fast track by both governments, with Israel selling $1 billion worth of defence goods to the US, against the $1.5 billion of equipment shipped to India. Maj. Gen. Ben-Hanan said he was not particularly concerned about the US entry into the Indian market, and that Israel would not be in competition as “America sells fighter jets, tanks and helicopters... and we do not compete with them.”


Post a Comment

<< Home