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NEW DELHI: Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday spoke to his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Gantz to congratulate him on taking office. This is the first call between the two after the new government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took charge last month.

“Congratulated Lt Gen (Res) Benjamin Gantz on taking charge as Dep PM & Min of Defence, Israel and thanked him for all the assistance by Israel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Look forward to working closely to deepen Defence Cooperation & advance strategic partnership with Israel," Singh said in a Twitter post.

Gantz who launched the “Hosen L’Ýisrael" or Israel Resilience Party in 2018, merged with two other parties in February 2019, marking the beginning of the centrist Blue and White coalition which is now part of prime minister Bennett’s umbrella coalition of eight groups. Bennett and his coalition proved their majority in the 120-member Knesset last month, ending former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as prime minister of Israel.

India views Israel as a key strategic partner with military sales estimated to average $1 billion annually. Ties have warmed considerably since the two sides established diplomatic ties in 1992.

According to a report in the Jane’s Defence Weekly in December 2020, India bought “Smart, Precise, Impact, Cost-Effective" (SPICE)-2000 bomb guidance kits for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and 300-odd Spike-Long Range (LR) anti-tank guided missiles and BNET broadband Internet Protocol (IP) tactical radios for the Indian Army (IA) in a $200 million deal last year. India has sourced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), assorted missile and air defence systems, various advanced sensors and radars, avionics technology and precision-guided munitions from Israel in recent years.

Besides defence, India and Israel also collaborate in water management and agriculture techniques besides cyber security.

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