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India waits for Sharon with defence list

Last updated on: September 06, 2003 02:50 IST

During Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit, which begins on September 8, India will discuss with him the sale of Arrow missile systems and present a list of military equipment.

No defence deals or agreements will be signed during the visit, which is being closely watched not just inside the country but also by foreign nations, especially in the Arab world.

As is the norm in Indo-Israel defence ties, the purchases will be kept a low-key affair and formal agreements will be signed "in future meetings", a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

Following a go ahead from the United States, Israel is already selling to India the Phalcon airborne warning and control system.

However, according to a Ministry of External Affairs official, the US is yet to okay the Israeli sale to India of Arrow systems, which provide for a quick response to incoming missiles.

Last year India had bought the Green Pine radar system, which is part of the entire Arrow anti-missile defence.

The importance of the Israeli defence establishment to India is visible from the fact that today Israel is the second biggest supplier of military wares after Russia.

Last week, the Cabinet Committee on Security decided to buy electronic warfare systems for India's battleships at an estimated cost of Rs 480 crore.

Besides, army sources say that a "major chunk" of the Rs 3,290 crore allotted for defence modernisation during the same CCS meeting will also go to Israel.

India is now acquiring Tavor-21 assault rifles and Galil 7.62 mm sniper rifles for its Special Forces from Israel.

With the fresh allotment of funds for improving the Special Forces, the military may look at other acquisitions, army officers say. Among the systems that may be acquired are laser target designators and handheld thermal imagers.

Officials indicate that most of the needs of the Special Forces and equipment needed for anti-terrorist operations will be discussed separately during the meeting of the Indo-Israel Joint Working Group on counterterrorism later this year.

Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes will call on Sharon during his Delhi stay.

Advani is expected to broach the idea of Israeli Special Forces helping India to create a 3,000 strong antiterrorist squad. The government already has a formal decision to that effect. The proposal is to raise the force from the Central Industrial Security Force and place it strategically around the country to take on any terrorist challenge.

Sources say the government will propose that this entire force be equipped with Israeli equipment.

The navy has told the government that it wants to acquire more of Israel's Barak anti-missile systems, one of which is already installed on aircraft carrier INS Viraat. Each Barak system is priced at about Rs 100 crores.

Josy Joseph in New Delhi