Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon met Thursday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, and heralded the end of an era when defense deals between the allies had to be kept hush-hush.
Ya’alon’s visit, the highest-level official visit since the countries established ties in 1992, marked another major step in the development of bilateral relations between New Delhi and Jerusalem, which has been linked in recent years to growing defense ties.
Ya’alon and Modi discussed matters of national security during a meeting in Delhi, according to Indian news site ANI.
“India is a very important country, and we are following with great appreciation the commitments and actions of PM Modi, who is leading India beyond the heights of growth,” Ya’alon wrote on Twitter Thursday.
הודו מדינה חשובה ביותר, ואנו עוקבים בהערכה רבה אחר מחויבות ופעילות רה"מ מודי, להוביל את הודו אל עבר פסגות של צמיחה. pic.twitter.com/wtpn7fqqj1
— משה 'בּוֹגִי' יעלון (@bogie_yaalon) February 19, 2015
The two also spoke briefly the day before at the Israel pavilion at a major defense exposition in Bangaluru, where Modi is pushing more domestic arms production.
The visit and expo, which is expected to result in defense deals worth billions, saw its first fruits Thursday as an Israeli firmed inked a “substantial” deal with an Indian defense company.
Asked if the visit meant the countries could sign defense deals out in the open, Ya’alon answered “that’s true,” according to Indian media.
“This is my first official visit,” Ya’alon told The Telegraph India on Thursday. “The relationship [between Israel and India] is deepening after the [September 2014] meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu in New York. We see continuous progress and common interests.”
He tweeted on Wednesday after his meeting with his Indian counterpart that his visit was “historic” and that relations between the two defense establishments was “excellent.”
In September, Netanyahu met Modi in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to discuss nuclear developments in Iran and expanding bilateral ties between Jerusalem and New Delhi. The meeting was the first between the Israeli and Indian premiers in over a decade, according to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.
Ya’alon’s meeting with Modi on Thursday came as the Indian industrial giant Kalyani Group announced a deal with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to develop and manufacture advanced military hardware, according to the Indian Business Standard.
Neither side disclosed the size of the joint venture, in which the Indian company will hold a majority stake.
The Kalyani-Rafael deal was the latest in a string of major defense agreements between Israel and India. In October, India reportedly agreed to a $525 million deal to buy Israel’s guided Spike missiles, which were widely used during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.
In November, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Israel, in the highest-level official trip ever for Delhi.
“Israel and India are at the cusp of a new era of increased cooperation in a wide variety of fields,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said while meeting Singh on November 6.