Israel-India Military Cooperation Reaches New High

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a picture to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi of the two leaders’ visit to Haifa’s Olga Beach on July 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

JERUSALEM — India was Israel’s largest purchaser of arms in 2017 alone, though purchases here decreased in 2018. According to Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israel exported $7.5 billion defense products in 2018, 46 percent went to Asian markets–namely India, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Singapore Globes reported. India has been the number one importer of Israeli military equipment supplied by IAI, IWI, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems.

Arrow Missile Defense System

Israel and India are deepening defense industry ties as Israeli companies seek long-term partnerships through India’s efforts to encourage products to be locally produced under “Make in India” initiatives.

As part of bilateral relations, trade may be boosted to $20 billion in the coming decades from the $5 billion level at which it currently stands, according to the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

A beach stroll by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his counterpart Narendra Modi caused online waves, with the two men seen wading barefoot into the surf together.

India’s trust on Israeli military equipment means India could use Israeli drones, EW and missile defense system to protect sensitive military installations and borders areas with China and Pakistan.

Heron UAV

Earlier this month, Israel Aerospace Industries and India’s Bharat Electronics Limited signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a new center for technical and maintenance support for India’s air defense systems. In addition, IAI on Feb. 5 signed a strategic collaboration memorandum with Indian firms Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Dynamatic Technologies Limited to work on UAVs that will be made in India.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a picture to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi of the two leaders’ visit to Haifa’s Olga Beach on July 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

India is not only a core country for Israel’s defense sales, but also strengthening the bilateral strategic partnership. IAI deals in 2017 included a $2.5 billion deal for Barak 8 missiles and $1.3 billion for surface-to-air missiles, with further deals in 2018, according to the company.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems said it has been doing business in India for more than two decades “supporting the Indian Armed forces with state-of-the-art systems.

Still, the relationship between India and Israel is evolving. India’s economic policy “Make in India” means that foreign companies wanting business in India must work alongside domestic companies and develop products locally. And Israeli companies have indeed partnered with Indian firms via joint ventures.

For instance Elbit established a joint venture with Adani Defence in Hyderbad for the production of Hermes drones in 2018. Adani Defence noted that the 50,000-square-foot facility is the first outside of Israel for manufacturing the Hermes 900 medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV. Another joint venture with Alpha Design Technologies was also launched with Elbit in recent years, and the Israeli firm also works with Bharat Electronics in the field of electronic warfare and electro-optics.

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And IAI inked MOUs with three Indian companies this month. Bharat Electronics’ marketing director said Feb. 5 that the collaboration would enhance its offerings and provide an immediate and optimized maintenance solution for air defense systems.

“The sky is the limit,” said Ze’ev Mivtzari, IAI’s corporate vice president of marketing for India. “It’s a big change from five years ago.” Mivtzari, a former Israeli defense attache to India, pointed to the strengthening of bilateral ties seen in recent years.

The same is true for air defense systems. India has acquired the Israel-developed Barak missile line for its medium-range surface-to-air missile requirement. Working with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, IAI hopes to increase sales of the missile by setting up production lines in India.

“If you want to work in India, you don’t just sell products, you need to create your own ecosystem,” the Israeli firm said. It’s that ecosystem that Israeli companies are targeting. The ecosystem for IAI now includes more than 100 local Indian companies with which it works.

Like IAI, Rafael’s interaction with India goes back decades and involves the Asian nation’s Army, Navy and Air Force. Rafael’s ecosystem is in Hyderbad, where it’s focusing on missiles, air defense systems, communications technology and electronic warfare capabilities.

The Rafael Advanced Defense Systems currently works with India on the SPYDER air defense system and Spike missiles, and it showcased its sea-based air defense system C-Dome, based on the Iron Dome, at a recent defense expo in Lucknow.

In the market of communications systems, Rafael seeks to increase sales of its BNET system is India, and it’s also pushing its Typhoon remote controlled weapons system for naval platforms.

UVision, an Israeli company that makes loitering munitions, also signed a deal this month with India’s Aditya Precitech to set up a joint venture to manufacture the PALM (precision attack loitering munition) Hero system. UVision’s company in India is called AVision.

But there are differing security challenges between New Delhi and Jerusalem. India is more concerned about China and Pakistan, while Israel is wary of Iran. The bilateral relationship between India and Israel reached new high under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and their meetings in 2017 and 2018 that resulted in government-to-government agreements..

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