India could revive missile megadeal with Israel - navy

Illustrative. An Israel soldiers prepares to launch a Spike anti-tank guided missile during a training exercise

With Israel asserting that its relationship with India is much stronger than one vote in the United Nations, the stage is set for for the arrival on Sunday of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu on a six-day trip to give a fillip to 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The Israeli Prime Minister will surely speak of the dramatic growth in strategic cooperation and bilateral trade since India and Israel established full diplomatic relations nearly 26 years ago. Most longstanding U.S. allies, it must be noted, did not join with the United States and Israel that day in opposing the UN resolution. While they are expected to hold the next round of talks in February, the two leaders are expected to take stock of the progress in the negotiations.

Conflicting reports about India's uncertain proposal to purchase Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel are also swirling in power corridors. India, on the other hand, sees Iran as a strategic partner in establishing logistical links to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Russian Federation through the Chabahar port, being developed with active Indian participation.

Netanyahu, who would be leaving for India on January 14, said: "Well I would have preferred a different vote to be frank but I don't think it materially changes the tremendous flowering of relations between India and Israel".

"I think everybody can see that". Modi's visit had celebrated 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries and had applauded the extraordinary achievements in bilateral relations during this period. The Israeli leader would be meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also the same day. Netanyahu will be accompanied by a delegation of 130 Israeli business leaders.

And he will certainly pay homage to India's traditional respect for its small Jewish community, and commemorate the tragedy that befell it more than nine years ago, when a Jewish communal centre was among the targets of a Pakistani-based terrorist cell's attack on Mumbai. At present, Israel is a major defence supplier to India exporting an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year.

The cancellation of the anti-tank missile contract was, in this context, not a significant setback in the long term, Mr Taneja said. "Rather than going whole hog we are in the discussion with the government" to fill in the gap he said.

Carmon, on his part, said that the Spike project is an example of Israel engaging in the Make in India programme. "Both Netanyahu and Modi have common political and ideological backgrounds, with nationalism leading the narratives from a Hindu point of view for Modi and Zionist point of view for Netanyahu".

Over the more than 25 years of diplomatic relations, in fact, there have been relatively few instances of Indian support for Israel in worldwide forums-even as political, economic, agricultural, and security cooperation intensified. Carmon said the visit will focus on the progress made between India and Israel since Modi's visit to Israel last summer.

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