Tel Aviv, June 13: Admiral Sunil Lamba, Indian Chief of Naval Staff flew in to Israel weeks before the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled historic visit to this country next month.
Admiral Lamba arrived in Israel on Monday for a four-day visit that aimed at boosting bilateral military cooperation between the two countries. India, it may be mentioned, has become a major buyer of Israeli military hardware, with the defence trade reaching over one billion dollars per year.
According to Israeli media reports, Admiral Lamba will meet the Israeli Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Naval Commander Maj. Gen, Eli Sharvit, Air Force Chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel and Ground Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak.
Admiral Lamba who is also the Chairman of India’s chiefs of staff committee (CoSC) will also be meeting high-ranking officials of Israel’s Defence Ministry and visit Haifa Naval Base and other military sites.
“Since the renewal of formal diplomatic relations in 1992, defence cooperation has been one of the main pillars of bilateral engagement between the two nations,” The Hindustan Times reported, quoting a Defence Ministry statement.
India has become a major purchaser of Israeli military hardware in recent years with Israel supplying New Delhi with weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
In the last five years, defence trade between the two countries has averaged more than $1 billion annually.
“India has been importing critical defence technologies from Israel. In addition, both the armed forces and the Defence Ministry have been cooperating through the medium of staff talks, Joint Working Group and exchange of high-level visits,” the newspaper said.
Indian Air Force chief Arup Raha visited in March, meeting at that time with then-defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon.
In May, three Indian warships docked at the Haifa port for three days and Rear-Adm. R. B. Pandit told journalists at the time that a number of significant defence acquisitions have been made from Israel, making specific reference to the Barak-8 missile system, which he said “provides the Indian Navy new and greater air-defence capabilities.”
Trade and economic relations with India have progressed rapidly in the past two decades, with a significant increase in the past year.
In April, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced that it signed a $1.6 billion mega-contract with the Indian Army for medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) advanced air and missile defence systems, as well as additional long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) air and missile defence systems for Indian aircraft carriers – largest contract in the history of the country’s defence industry.
Modi is expected to sign additional arms deals when he visits in early July.