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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz in New Delhi on Thursday.Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his visiting Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz on Thursday discussed partnerships within the government-to-government framework, military training, and technological cooperation with a focus on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and defensive capabilities.

A Letter of Intent on enhancing cooperation in the field of futuristic defence technologies was also exchanged between the two Ministers, a Defence Ministry statement said.

Before the bilateral meeting, Mr. Gantz paid homage at the National War Memorial and reviewed a Guard of Honour on the lawns of Vigyan Bhavan. Mr. Gantz also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

“Discussed key issues pertaining to defence cooperation and global and regional scenarios during the bilateral meeting. We place great value on our strategic partnership with Israel,” Mr. Singh said on Twitter after the meeting. “There is a broad consensus between both the countries on further strengthening the bilateral strategic and defence cooperation.”

Mr. Gantz’s scheduled visit to India in the end of March was postponed due to “some unavoidable reasons” while the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett scheduled for early April was postponed after he tested positive for COVID-19. The two countries are close to finalising a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which officials indicated could be signed during the visit of Mr. Bennett for which both sides are discussing mutually convenient dates.

Mr. Gantz is accompanied by his Chief of Staff Maayan Israeli, Military Secretary Brig. Gen. Yaki Dolf, Director of the Policy and POL-MIL Bureau Dror Shalom and Head of the International Defence Cooperation Directorate Yair Kulas.

Israel has been one of India’s top defence partners supplying a range of high end defence equipment. Indian armed forces rely heavily on Israeli Searcher and Heron UAVs to meet their surveillance requirements with growing need for more.

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