Emphasising on the excellent defence cooperation with India and "shared aspirations for stability and calm," Israel's Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Benny Gantz on Friday expressed hope that the strong bilateral ties will also contribute significantly to the global efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a telephonic conversation with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, he welcomed the promotion of bilateral partnership even in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. "I was glad to speak this morning with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh about the excellent defence cooperation enjoyed by our two countries and our shared aspirations for stability and calm in our regions", Gantz told PTI.
"I am sure that the Israeli delegation arriving in India next week will contribute significantly to global efforts to combat it (COVID-19)," he said. Earlier, Singh in a tweet said that they "reviewed the progress on defence cooperation between both the countries" and "also discussed the prevailing COVID-19 situation and how we can fight against this menace through mutual cooperation".
In New Delhi, government sources said that the main focus of the talks was speedy implementation of ongoing defence procurement programmes as well as further expansion of overall defence and security ties between the two countries. India's border tension with China in eastern Ladakh figured prominently when the two defence ministers delved into the evolving regional security scenario, the sources said.
Merging Israel's technological expertise with India's mass production capabilities, experts from the two countries will join hands in the coming weeks to develop rapid testing for COVID-19 in under 30 seconds. A high ranking team from the Directorate of Defence Research and Development (DDR&D), in the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMoD), which has been working with India's Chief Scientist and DRDO to develop rapid testing for COVID-19 in under 30 seconds, is to leave from Tel Aviv to New Delhi on a special flight, the IMoD said in a statement.
"The entire Ministry of Defence has been mobilised to address the corona crisis. We hope that the research and development led by the DDR&D together with our excellent industries and academic institutions, will lead to a breakthrough that will change the way we diagnose and fight the virus, while giving the boost necessary to 'restart' our economy," Gantz said on Thursday. Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said: "I see great importance in cooperating with India in the fight against Corona. This operation conveys a message of friendship and solidarity with India."
"During the first outbreak of COVID-19 in Israel, India gave Israel special authorisation to acquire medicine, masks and protective gear. Now, Israel is proud to reciprocate this significant gesture and grant authorisation for purchasing of respirators to its great friend in the East. "The unique cooperation between India and Israel has allowed both countries to better deal with the COVID-19 threat and could potentially change the way we live beside the virus", foreign ministry sources said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu have held three telephonic conversations since the outbreak of the pandemic and promised mutual assistance in dealing with the virus, committing to joint technological and scientific research between the countries. The Israeli media widely reported that Modi lifted a ban on the export of Hydroxychloroquine at Netanyahu's request.
India is said to have designated a team of around 100 professionals and a team dedicated to the construction of testing sites that will be operated jointly by the Israeli and Indian delegations for this cooperative venture. The Israeli delegation consists of 20 persons (IMoD, IDF, Ministry of Health and representatives of relevant industries), and is led by Israel's Ambassador to India, Ron Malka, and the Defence Attache in India, Col. Assaf Meller.
Both India and Israel have recently seen a major spike in the number of COVID-19 patients. While it has crossed a million mark in India, Israel has so far had 56,748 cases with 23,560 recoveries and 433 deaths.
There was a time a few weeks back when Israel had less than 2,000 live cases but the past few weeks has seen a significant increase in numbers with the economy opening up. "I am proud to lead this Israeli delegation to India. It is at times like this that our friendship is tested, and the State of Israel is happy to lend a helping hand to India in this complicated and difficult time. I am confident that India and Israel can work together to find innovative and cheap solutions to help the world overcome this crisis," Malka, currently visiting Israel, said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge, so it is only right that the solution be a global scientific cooperation between countries. India and Israel's military R&D cooperation is well known for its success. "I have no doubt the same will be seen in the private sector joined by brilliant scientific minds from both countries to introduce a breakthrough in swift and simple testing procedures," he added.