Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa will be in Israel from May 21 to 24 to take part in a conference on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Israel Air Force. ACM Dhanoa will attend the "Air Superiority as a Bridge to Regional Stability" conference during the four-day tour and also discuss strategic issues with the Israeli military leadership and chiefs of over 20 other air forces.
Defence ties between India and Israel have grown manifold in the last couple of decades. India has emerged as Israel's biggest arms market and has been purchasing around $1 billion worth of weapons every year. Air forces of the two countries have also taken part in several professional exchange programmes over the last few years including Israel's largest air exercise - 2017 Blue Flag exercise. ACM Dhanoa will also visit bases of the Israel Air Force, monuments of Israeli military aviation and cultural heritage.
In January, India cancelled the USD 500 million order to but Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Israel’s state-owned defence contractor Rafael. However, India is going ahead with the acquisition of 131 Barak surface-to-air missiles by Rafael. The deal is worth USD 72 million. In 2009 Israel had sold Barak 8 air defence system to India for USD 1.1 billion.
The two countries established diplomatic ties only in January 1992 but the defence deals go back to 1962 when the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to his Israeli counterpart Ben Gurion and asked him to supply arms and ammunition during the Sino-India war. Israel had then accepted Nehru's request and supplied the weapons.
Israel had also supplied weapons to India during the 1971 war with Pakistan after former prime minister Indira Gandhi had written to Israeli PM Golda Meir.