Top Israeli general in India to discuss military ties - The Times of India NEW DELHI: India and Israel continue to silently expand their already extensive ties in the fields of defence and homeland security, with Israeli chief of land forces major general Guy Zur now in New Delhi on a four-day visit. Maj-Gen Zur on Tuesday held talks with defence minister A K Antony, Army chief General Bikram Singh, Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi and IAF chief Air chief marshal N A K Browne, among others, to discuss measures to bolster bilateral defence cooperation. While regional and global security situation figured in the talks, the focus was on bilateral defence training programmes, exchanges, R&D projects and armament deals. "The two countries, which share similar challenges of terrorism, have strong military and defence trade ties," said an officer. The Israeli general will also be visiting the Para establishment in Agra and the Army's Southwestern Command in Jaipur during his visit here. "He has invited Gen Bikram Singh to visit Israel," he said. Israel is India's second largest defence supplier, second only to Russia, but the ties are largely kept under wraps due to political sensitivities. Tel Aviv records military sales worth around $1 billion to New Delhi every year, ranging from Heron and Searcher UAVs, Harpy and Harop "killer" drones to Green Pine radars, Python and Derby air-to-air missiles. Two major joint projects, however, are running way behind schedule. The first one is the development of the long-range SAM (LR-SAM) project, sanctioned in December 2005 at a cost of Rs 2,606 crore, to arm Indian warships. The second is the even bigger Rs 10,076 crore medium-range SAM (MR-SAM) project, sanctioned in February 2009, for air defence squadrons of IAF. Both the SAM systems, being developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) in collaboration with DRDO, have the same missile with an interception range of 70-km. They are to be produced in bulk by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics (BDL) to plug the existing gaping holes in India's air defence cover. India is also interested in ordering another two advanced Israeli Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) aircraft, capable of detecting hostile aircraft, cruise missiles and other incoming aerial threats far before ground-based radars, but the huge cost escalation has slowed down things. The first three Phalcon AWACS were inducted by IAF in 2009-2010 under the $1.1 billion tripartite agreement among India, Israel and Russia.