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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

End of an era: Israel replaces Russia as India's top military supplier

LONDON — Israel has become the leading weapons partner India, ending a period in which first the Soviet Union and then Russia dominated security ties.   

Indian officials said Israel has replaced Russia as the leading defense and military supplier to New Dehli. They said Israel has signed more than $1 billion in defense contracts in both 2007 and 2008. Russia has been supplying India with $875 million of defense equipment per year. "We have a very special defense relationship with India," Israeli Maj. Gen. Udi Shani, director of the Defense Ministry's Sibat export agency, said. "It's now moving toward joint development of equipment." Shani, in a visit to India in mid-February, said Israel and New Dehli were discussing several additional defense projects, Middle East Newsline reported. He did not elaborate.

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Officials said the Indian government has rejected opposition calls for a suspension of defense imports from Israel. Instead, India was moving to approve a range of air force and other military projects with Israel that would stress reconnaissance and air defense. The turning point, official said, was the Al Qaida-aligned attack on Mumbai in November 2008. The strike, stemming from Pakistan and in which about 150 people were killed, highlighted India's weakness in air and naval surveillance. As a result, India has purchased aerostat radar from the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. Officials said IAI's EL/M-2083 was alued at $600 million and would be deployed along the Pakistani border. India has also agreed to develop a medium-range air defense system with Israel. In August, the Indian Defense Ministry approved the development of an enhanced configuration of the Spyder mobile air defense system, manufacturing by IAI and Rafael Advanced Defense System. New Dehli has also been negotiating for the procurement of another three airborne early-warning and control systems aircraft from Israel. Officials said New Dehli was examining an AEW system installed in the G-550 executive jet manufactured by Gulfstream Aviation. "There are several new projects in the pipeline," Shani said.

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