NEW YORK - India's growing ties with Israel were a prime factor behind the targeting of a small Jewish center in the Mumbai attacks, The Los Angles Times reported Sunday, citing unnamed counter-terrorism experts in the New Delhi. "These experts, despite an ongoing investigation of the assailants' motives, have concluded that the assault on the obscure Nariman House was more sophisticated than those on the city's two luxury hotels, an indication that it was a prime target in the November operation," the newspaper said in a dispatch from the Indian capital. "Their aim was to humiliate India, that is aim No 1," retired Indian Vice Admiral Premvir Das was quoted as saying. "Two was to tell the Indians clearly that your growing linkage with Israel is not what you should be doing. I think the rest is peripheral." Das and other members of a high-level delegation of Indian government and business leaders met in Washington in December with senior US State Department and Pentagon officials, including the then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and discussed the Mumbai violence, according to The Times. "The relationship between India and Israel has grown into one of the most important for both countries, particularly in arms sales. India has become Israel's largest customer, acquiring about $1.5 billion in weapons every year. Only Russia sells more arms to India," it said. Bruce Riedel, a former South Asia analyst at the CIA, was cited as saying the Indian space agency launched a highly sophisticated Israeli spy satellite a year ago, the first of what is expected to be three such launches. Israel's ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, declined to discuss the security relationship between the countries, saying Israel never talks about it publicly. But Sofer, according to the dispatch, acknowledged that they had grown closer in nonmilitary areas in recent years, noting that Israeli-Indian trade has increased from $80m in 1991, the year the nations established diplomatic ties, to more than $3.5b last year. Israeli companies also have invested heavily in India, particularly in the real estate and agriculture sectors, and India, especially the western city of Goa, has become a prime tourist destination for Israelis, it said. According to data compiled by the Indian tourism ministry, the number of Israelis visiting India has more than quadrupled over the last decade, to more than 40,000 annually. "Direct evidence, however, that the Mumbai attackers were targeting this increasingly friendly relationship remains piecemeal," The Times said. Early in the assault, an attacker who was part of the operation on Nariman House called an Indian TV news channel and railed against the September visit by a senior Israeli military official, Maj Gen Avi Mizrahi, to the divided Kashmir region. Mizrahi reportedly spoke to Indian officers about counter-terrorism strategies. In addition, Indian media have reported that the lone suspect captured in the attacks, Ajmal Amir Kasab, has told authorities that the assailants were specifically targeting Israeli citizens at the Jewish center and had staked out the facility far in advance. Das, the retired vice admiral, said the ruthlessness of the attack at the Jewish center indicated how important the location was to the assailants. "They targeted a nondescript apartment building, which is known to be visited and known to be host to Israeli people," Das said. But not everyone familiar with the Indian investigation is convinced that the bilateral relationship was specifically targeted, according to The Times. One senior New Delhi-based diplomat who has been briefed on the investigation said Indian officials were making too much of the relationship.