Netanyahu set to lead trade task force to India

PM to take 130 businessmen with him to India next week for trade talks, which will also cover defense sales.

Tags: India

Binyamin Netanyahu, Narendra Modi
Binyamin Netanyahu, Narendra Modi
Avi Ohayon/Flash 90

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will take 130 businessmen with him to India next week for trade talks which will also cover defense sales, a senior Israeli official said Wednesday.

Foreign ministry deputy director general for Asia, Gilad Cohen, said the six-day trip starting Sunday was meant to further deepen political, trade and cultural ties.

India's defense ministry announced last week that it would buy 131 surface-to-air missiles from Israel.

The Barak missiles made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are to be used for India's first aircraft carrier which is under construction.

But at the same time, Rafael said India had cancelled a separate $500-million deal to purchase Spike anti-tank guided missiles.

"Rafael has received an official statement from the Indian ministry of defense on the cancellation of the Spike missile deal," the company told the Jerusalem Post newspaper last week.

The Post said Rafael executives would be in the trade delegation accompanying Netanyahu.

Cohen declined to answer questions on the subject in his briefing to journalists in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

"The prime minister will be talking (to his hosts) on the whole range of issues which make up relations between Israel and India: water, agriculture, energy, culture, innovation, also defence," he said.

"I do not want to elaborate on defense issues."

Israel is a major weapons supplier to India, selling it an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year.

In April last year the two countries signed a military deal worth nearly $2 billion which includes the supply over several years of medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology.

Netanyahu's India trip comes after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel in July, the first ever by an Indian premier.

A media highlight of that visit was a barefoot stroll through the surf together at an Israeli beach, where Modi got a demonstration of a mobile water desalination unit mounted on a dune buggy.

Cohen said Netanyahu would present one to Modi during his visit next week.