Even as Israel’s Chief of Ground Forces Command Major General Yakov Barak met the GOC-in-C of the Northern Command Lieutenant General D Anbu in Udhampur district on Tuesday, a C-130J ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft carrying a 45-member contingent, including Garud commandos, left India to take part in Blue Flag-17, a multilateral exercise from November 2–16 in Israel.
These unprecedented events mark the dramatic rise in strategic cooperation between the two nations. The Blue Flag drill is a biannual exercise designed to strengthen Israel’s international military cooperation; earlier participants include the US, France, Germany and Italy. This is the first time the IAF is operating with the Israeli Air Force in a multilateral exercise setting.
In Kashmir, General Barak’s visit sparked speculation that India was seeking further Israeli expertise to counter infiltration by terrorists from Pakistan. Most of the sensors and other electronic systems to detect intrusions along the border with Pakistan are of Israeli origin. Reports said General Barak and his team briefed the Army commanders about the measures taken by the Israeli troops to prevent infiltration of militants from Gaza and West Bank. Narendra Modi became the first- ever Indian PM to visit Israel in
July. He signed at least 12 MoUs worth over $4.3 billion between the two countries.
Israel has been selling various weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years, making India its largest buyer of military hardware, with annual sales worth more than $1 billion annually. Non-defence trade between the countries has averaged $4.6 billion per year over the past five years.
During his eight-day visit to India in November last year, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had stressed that his country was keen not just to “make in India, but also to make with India”. After more than half a century of covert relations, Indo-Israeli ties appear to be finally blossoming into a real partnership.