New Delhi: Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Sunday left for Israel on a five-day visit to further strengthen the bilateral defence cooperation between the two nations.  

It is Naravane’s first visit to a key defence partner of New Delhi, during which he will meet the Jewish state’s senior military and civilian leadership to discuss avenues for further enhancing Indo-Israel defence relations, said a statement from the Indian Ministry of Defence.

“The Army Chief will take forward the excellent bilateral defence cooperation between Israel and India through multiple meetings with senior officials of the security establishment and exchange views on various defence related issues. He will interact with the Service Chiefs and visit the Headquarters of the Ground Forces element of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF),” it added.

The Indian Army in a Twitter post said: “General MM Naravane #COAS proceeded on a five-day visit to #Israel. The visit aims to further strengthen strategic defence cooperation between both countries.”

Before Naravane,  several Indian representatives made high level visits to Israel in recent months.

Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar was in Israel on a visit between 17-20 October, his first as foreign minister and also the first since the new Israeli government under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took office in June.

Jaishankar and his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid had taken part in a meeting with the foreign ministers of the UAE and the US, setting of speculation of a new so called ‘Quad’ in the making. India and the US have regular meetings in a ‘quadrilateral’ format with Japan and Australia.

Meanwhile, last month Indian Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar had visited Israel for talks with the Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Defence, Major General Amir Eshel. The two countries had then agreed to form a task force to work out new areas of defence cooperation.

In August, then Indian Air Force chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria had also travelled to Israel.

The relations between India and Israel have warmed steadily since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1992. The bilateral trade between the two countries is around $5 billion annually, while defence trade is around $1 billion per annum, according to various estimates, with India being a significant buyer of Israeli defence products. This, however, is not reflected in the regular trade figures.

Last week, the two nations signed a pact aimed at spurring innovation and speeding up the development of dual use technologies by small and medium sized firms in both the countries. The agreement aims at jointly developing next-generation technologies and products, such as drones, robotics, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

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