India-Israel Defense Relations Threatened by Scandal

India-Israel Defense Relations Threatened by Scandal

NEW DELHI, India -- One of India's biggest ever defense deals with Israel, worth $2 billion, hovered on the brink of collapse earlier this month after allegations of graft to the tune of $120 million surfaced. Indian Defense Minister A. K. Anthony was quick to deny the claims, while asserting that the government would take strict action against the Israeli company and the Indian middlemen involved should the charges be true. This was, however, the second blow to Indo-Israeli relations in a matter of days -- the first being a controversial video produced by Israeli defense firm Rafael and shown at a recent arms expo that lampooned India's Bollywood movie industry.

The bad news came at a time when ties between the two countries could not have been stronger. In March, Israel officially overtook Russia to acquire the enviable position of India's largest arms supplier. Now the deal involving the sale of surface-to-air missiles by Israel Aerospace Industries to the Indian government seems to have been jeopardized.

India-Israel strategic relations have traditionally been defined around security. Prior to the 1990s, India regarded with skepticism military ties to a state founded around its religious identity. Struggling to deal with the growing menace of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, though, and impressed with Israel's successes in wars against neighboring Arab nations, India has cultivated closer ties since then.

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