Gantz to make delayed India visit next week, marking 30 years of security ties

Defense minister to meet Indian counterpart, sign ‘special security declaration’; March trip was delayed amid string of terror attacks in Israel

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the IDF Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem, on March 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the IDF Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem, on March 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is slated to travel to India next week to sign a “special security declaration” marking 30 years of security and diplomatic relations between the countries, his office said Wednesday.

Gantz will depart next Wednesday, June 1, according to his office. The trip was initially meant to take place in late March, but Gantz delayed it amid a series of deadly terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank, that have left 19 people dead since March 22.

His office did not immediately detail the schedule of the trip, or when he is expected to return, but said he will meet and sign the document with his counterpart, Rajnath Singh.

The declaration is expected to be largely ceremonial. However, the original meeting in March was scheduled to also include talks on improving security relations between the countries.

Israel has sought to tighten defense ties with New Delhi in recent years, especially in the fields of air and missile defense.

India is one of the largest customers of Israeli weapons systems, purchasing billions of dollars worth of equipment in recent years and embarking on several joint projects with Israeli companies.

India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh speaks at a news conference during the fourth US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, Monday, April 11, 2022. (Michael A. McCoy/Pool via AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also scheduled a trip to India — marking 30 years of full diplomatic relations — back in March, but postponed it after contracting COVID-19. He has yet to announce a new date.

Though New Delhi recognized Israel in 1950, ties were long frosty between the two nations, owing largely to India’s large Muslim population and its leadership role in the Cold War-era Non-Aligned Movement.

Full diplomatic relations were established in 1992.

Under the leadership of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, ties blossomed between India and Israel, culminating in the late prime minister Ariel Sharon’s 2003 visit to the country, the first by an Israeli premier.

Defense, economic and diplomatic bilateral ties continued to grow in recent years, and Narendra Modi — like Vajpayee, a member of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party — became the first Indian premier to visit Israel in 2017.

During a trip to Israel last year, where he extended the invitation to Bennett to visit, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar lauded the business relationship between his country and Israel, saying at a meeting with CEOs and government officials that India regards Israel “in many ways as perhaps our most trusted and innovative partner.”

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