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Left-wing Indian parties are pressing New Delhi to cancel the $2.5 billion spy-planes deal with Israel Aerospace Industries, following Operation Cast Lead. Speaking at a convention organized to show solidarity with Palestine, Prakash Karat, the secretary general of the Communist Party of India, called for an end to the "pro-Israeli tilt" in Indian policy.

The first step in this direction, following the "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, should be to cancel the deal for the planes, Karat said. The planes in question are Russian Il-76 jets converted into AWACS-type (Airborne Warning and Control System) espionage planes.

Speakers at the conference called on New Delhi to cease its alliance with Israel. Also mentioned were suspicions now under investigation of kickbacks from the Aerospace Industries, in a deal involving Barak missiles. Aerospace has denied the allegations.

Leftists in India had already scored partial success in holding up the deal for the AWACS jets, which are intended to patrol the border with Pakistan. However, in recent months the government pushed ahead with the deal despite the opposition. Delivery has been delayed on the Israeli side, after glitches were discovered in the planes, according to the supplier.

India views Israel as a strategic partner in building a strong military presence. According to Indian media, Israel is the country's second-biggest arms supplier, after Russia.

Meanwhile, a deal for Aerospace to sell ground-to-air missiles to India has been held up for three years. A few months ago, India's top procurement authority approved it, but final permission has not been forthcoming.

This week the Aero India expo will be commencing in Bangalore. Aerospace will be presenting its small-size espionage plane, which also has early-warning capacity.