New Delhi: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic visit to Israel, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba today left for the Jewish nation on a four-day trip aimed at broadening bilateral defence and security cooperation.
Admiral Lanba will hold talks with Lt General Gadi Eisenkot, Chief of the General Staff of Israeli Defence Force, to explore stepping up of cooperation between armed forces of the two countries in the wake of evolving security challenges in the region.
He is also scheduled to meet the Commander-in-Chief of Israeli Navy, Commander of Israeli Air Force, Commander of Israeli Ground Forces and a number of high-ranking officials of Israel's defence ministry, the Navy said in a statement.
Defence ties between India and Israel have been growing rapidly and a raft of mega deals including procurement of an air defence system for the Indian Navy are likely to be sealed during PM Modi's upcoming visit, which will be the first by an Indian Prime Minister to the Jewish nation.
India is the largest buyer of Israel's military hardware and the latter has been supplying various weapon systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years, but the transactions have largely remained behind the curtains.
Admiral Lanba is also chairman of the powerful chiefs of staff committee (CoSC) which comprises the Army, Navy and IAF chiefs.
"The visit by Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chairman CoSC & CNS will further consolidate the armed forces cooperation between the two countries," the Navy said.
The much-awaited deal for Barak-8 air defence missile systems for the navy and procurement of Spike anti-tank missiles for the Indian Army are expected to be firmed up during PM Modi's visit to Tel Aviv next month.
The Indo-Israel cooperation in naval sphere has witnessed an upswing in the last few years. Western fleet ships Mumbai, Teg, Tarkash and Aditya -- had recently visited Hanifa in Israel.
Admiral Lanba's official schedule in Israel begins tomorrow and will conclude on June 15.
"The defence relationship between the two countries, over the years, has matured into one of mutual trust and confidence. Indian has been importing critical defence technologies from Israel.
"In addition, both the armed forces and MoD have been cooperating through the medium of Staff Talks, Joint Working Group (JWG) and exchange of high-level visits," the Navy said, adding Admiral Lanba's visit to Israel is in continuation of such high level defence exchanges.