Israel has displaced Russia as the leading weapons partner of India, signing contracts worth more than $1 billion for both the years 2007 and 2008. These contracts overhaul the Russian average of $875 million for both the years.
According to Israeli Maj Gen Udi Shani, director of the defence ministry's Sibat export agency, Israel now shares a very special defence relationship with India. He was quoted by the Middle East Newsline as saying that both countries were now moving towards joint development of equipment.
Maj Gen Shani, on a visit to India in mid-February, apparently revealed that Israel and New Delhi were also discussing several defence projects, in addition to the ongoing ones. These projects would lay stress on reconnaissance and air defence.
The defence news agency also quoted Indian defence officials as saying that the turning point, as far as new contracts were concerned was the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 26 November 2008.
The strike, stemming from Pakistan, which resulted in the loss of lives of about 180 people highlighted some weaknesses, particularly in air and naval surveillance. The orders for aerostat radars from the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries was a direct consequence of these attacks. These static airborne radar installations, equipped with IAI's EL/M-2083 radar would be deployed along the Pakistani border.
India has also agreed to develop a medium-range air defence system (MR-SAM) with Israel, a contract which along with the ones for the aerostat balloons is now drawing political fire. The country has also opted for the mobile, quick reaction Spyder mobile air defence system, manufacturing by IAI and Rafael Advanced Defense System.
These will be supplied in an advanced version and will form an effective, though interim, arrangement until supply of the MR-SAM's begin.
Interestingly, New Delhi has also been negotiating for the purchase of another three airborne early-warning and control systems aircraft from Israel. These would very likely be the improvised AEW system installed in the Gulfstream Aviation's G-550 executive jet.