Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel and India, which see themselves increasingly on the same side in the battle against terrorism, have been strengthening ties with the visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to India and the first meeting of the India-Israel Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism in Jerusalem this week.
Israel is also reportedly in the process of selling Phalcon advanced radar systems to India like the one that the U.S. demanded Israel not sell to China.
Peres on the second day of a three-day visit to India on Tuesday, met with Indian, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his counterpart, Jaswant Singh and Defense Minister George Fernandes.
Peres said that terrorism was the biggest challenge facing civilization in the world today and that India and Israel were on the same side of the struggle.
Israel, which has battled terrorism for more than 50 years, has currently been waging a 15-month struggle against Palestinian terrorism while India is facing Islamic militancy in Kashmir.
"The world is no longer divided into east and west," Peres said Monday. "The new division is between countries that harbor terrorists and countries which fight them."
The Indian press said on Tuesday, that Peres would ask Indian officials for their backing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Earlier this week, Israel and India convened the first meeting of a joint working group on counter-terrorism.
"The discussions were held in a spirit of friendship and covered a number of issues including the threat of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations as well as the sources of terrorism, the global fight against this phenomenon, the legal dimensions and other matters," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It said that the parties regarded the discussions as "constructive" and agreed to hold meetings on a regular basis.
Peres was due to discuss the sale of the Phalcon advanced early warning system with Fernandes on Tuesday.
New Delhi has purchased aerial surveillance vehicles from Israel and is discussing the purchase of the Israeli-made Phalcon airborne early warning radar system.
Israel got into trouble with the U.S. last year over a planned sale of the same radar system to China and was forced to cancel the already signed deal under intense U.S. pressure, impairing Israeli-Chinese relations.
Last month China demanded that Israel pay as much as $2 billion for the cancellation of the spy plane deal. Washington feared the equipment could be used against its own troops if trouble broke out in the Straits of Taiwan.
An Israeli source said Tuesday that he believed Israel had cleared the sale with Washington, because Israel would not be so foolish as to make the same mistake twice.
Stavit Lion, Defense Ministry spokeswoman, said Tuesday that Israel and India have been negotiating for a long time on the sale of three advanced warning planes.
"The negotiations are in the advanced stages, but they have not been concluded," she said. "Sources in the American government have been informed about this situation. The contacts with the Indian air force have no connection with the sale of the Phalcon to China," Lion added.
But a U.S. official said he believed that, although India wasn't China, the sale could still pose a problem for Washington.
Iran Upset About Visit
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Sadak Harazi said his country was upset by Peres' visit to India.
"We cannot accept that Israel, with its plots and in this unusual manner, becomes involved into regional affairs," Harazi said. He pointed to the expanding military ties between Israel and India and said that an arms race in southern Asia would harm peace and stability.
But Peres responded indignantly to the reports.
"If it is true that Tehran is worried about my visit, it is a good thing," he said in an interview with Israeli army radio Tuesday.
"Until now Tehran has been involved in terror and has pretended to be innocent. We know that Tehran is the one supplying Hizballah and other terror organizations with money and arms, and it has also been involved in the captured weapons ship," Peres said.
Israel captured a freighter last week, which it says was laden with Iranian-supplied weapons bound for the Palestinian Authority. Iran has denied any involvement in the affair.
Israel, India Feel Pushed Aside For Sake of Anti-Terror Drive (Oct. 16, 2001)
Israeli-India Relations Strengthen Over Common Threat of Islamic Militancy (August 22, 2001)