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Sharon in India from Sep 9 to 11

Josy Joseph in New Delhi | August 27, 2003 18:21 IST

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will visit India from September 9 to 11 with a high-powered delegation of senior ministers and business leaders.

During the visit, the two sides will sign agreements and memorandums of understanding on defence, information technology and agriculture.

The visit -- strategically important to both countries and closely watched by their neighbours and allies -- is likely to be a major headache for the Indian security and intelligence agencies. A senior intelligence officer said: "He is going to be in New Delhi and Mumbai. It is going to be a tough time."

Sharon will arrive in New Delhi on September 9 and will hold meetings with President A P J Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani and other senior members of the government.

The two sides will sign "some six agreements on defence, agriculture, medical equipment, information technology, trade etc" an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi told rediff.com.

Sharon will be accompanied by three of his ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Yosef Labid.
The business delegation, the Israeli diplomat said, will comprise of  "CEOs and presidents of several leading Israeli companies."

From Delhi, Sharon will head for Mumbai to address a meeting of Indian business leaders. He will also meet up with the tiny Jewish community of Mumbai before returning to Israel.

The Israeli diplomat refused to elaborate on the kind of agreement in defence the two sides will sign.

Israel in recent years has emerged a strategic partner of India in the latter's fight against terrorism.

Israeli sensors are being used along certain portions of the Indian border in Jammu and Kashmir to plug infiltration. A few Israeli experts are working with the Indian Army in fine tuning these sensors.

India has also bought unmanned aerial vehicles and Green Pine long-range radar system that is part of the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense System from Isreal, and is expected to soon acquire airborne early warning and control system Phalcon from Israel.

India is also trying to acquire the entire Arrow Ballistic Missile Defence System from Israel, but American clearance is necessary for the deal because Arrow has several US components.

Israeli equipment is also being used in the upgrade of MIG-21 fighters.

In the civilian sector too there are several major joint projects between Indian and Israeli companies. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Israel Aircraft Industries have a programme to jointly market HAL's Advanced Light Helicopter in international market.

Israel is also expected to train and equip a 3000-strong commando team, a project that is believed to be the idea of Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani. These commandos are likely to be stationed around the country to react swiftly to terrorist strikes.

"The cooperation at all levels would be taken to a higher level," an official in the Ministry of External Affairs said.


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