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IAF Chief Browne in Israel to deepen defence ties

Chief of Air Staff NAK Browne was India`s first defence attache to Israel and is credited with setting up the defence wing at the Indian mission in 1997.

Jerusalem: Amid deepening ties between India and Israel, Chief of Air Staff NAK Browne has held strategic talks with his Israeli counterpart and will meet defence top brass, furthering the ongoing bilateral military cooperation.

"This is a part of routine reciprocal visits between chiefs of various wings of the defence forces of the two countries", a defence source here told a news agency.

However, "the visit underlines a very strong strategic relationship between the two countries where cooperation with India would probably rank only second to the United States", the source said.

Browne was India`s first defence attache to Israel and is credited with setting up the defence wing at the Indian mission in 1997.

The visit started yesterday with the presentation of a combined guard of honour at the Kirya (Israel`s defence establishment base in Tel Aviv). Browne also met and discussed about ongoing cooperation with his host, Israel Air Force chief Amir Eshel.

The Chief of Air staff, who is also the current chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, is scheduled to call on Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Chief, Benny Gantz, during his four-day visit.

At present, the two main projects between India and Israel are the upgrade of all its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with the three Services and the Medium Range-Surface to Air Missile system being co-developed by the DRDO and Israeli firms, officials said.

India has emerged as the largest buyer of Israeli arms and equipments. Israel`s total defence exports to India is said to have touched USD 9 billion since 1997.

Israel has supplied a wide range of defence equipments to India, including the much talked about Phalcon AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Aircraft) fitted on board Russian Ilyushin 76 four-engine jets.

Browne, accompanied by a high-level delegation of Air Force officials, would also visit Israeli air bases and squadrons, where he would be briefed on the operational procedures of the Israeli Air Force.

The Air Chief would visit `Yad Vashem`, Israel`s Memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust established in 1953 and Memorial of Indian Soldiers in Jerusalem, Indian War Cemetery, in commemoration of sacrifice of Indian fallen soldiers who helped liberate Haifa in 1918, in World War-I.

The Indian Army commemorates September 23 as Haifa Day to pay its respects to the two brave Indian Cavalry Regiments that helped liberate the city in 1918 following a dashing cavalry action by the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade.