Indo-Israel nexus is not something new when it comes to strategic cooperation between the two. Both states have been jointly investing in different domains; starting from the development of capabilities like conventional missiles and drones, and in domains such as counter-terrorism, cyber and space. This has been done under the ambit of ‘Made in India’ projects. The common trends in all these developments suggest that these military developments significantly target Pakistan and undermine the regional stability of South Asia.
Pakistan is a country which constantly supports peace and stability in the region which is affected by the aggressive Indo-Israel military developments. Israel remains a significant threat to peace in this region. Israel is the third largest arms suppliers to India and that broadly targets Pakistan. Israel also reportedly backs the so-called Indian ‘surgical strikes’ against Pakistan. This was evident from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response to a question during an interview regarding Israel’s support of Indian surgical strikes against Pakistan, when he said that, “you fight terrorism by fighting it”.
On the political front, different high-level delegation visits between India and Israel have also contributed towards establishing a strong political relationship. In the last two years, this diplomatic relationship has improved further and Israel remains successful in changing Indian diplomatic position on Israel-Palestinian rifts and urging India to abstain from voting against Israel at the UN. This was a historic and a significant diplomatic change that the BJP government took against their so-called neutral foreign policy towards Israel and Palestine.
Since the last few decades, the Israeli military-industrial complexes have intrigued India. India significantly wants to expand their cooperation on various accounts; as it aims to be a regional hegemon and thus exploit its conventional asymmetry against Pakistan.
Moreover, India has shown an interest in Israel’s expertise in their missile defence system. It can be a major way out for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has faced many failures in developing indigenous missile defence systems. In the past, the US prevented Israel from selling its missile defence system to India as they had jointly developed it. Despite this, Israel exported its two Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD)-based radar systems, named Green Pine, to India in 2002. In the backdrop of the recently deepening Indo-US defence cooperation, there is a possibility that of the US assisting Israel on matters related to India.
Likewise, India is interested in purchasing the Israeli Iron Dome that is a missile interceptor with the range of 4 km-70 km. India has already signed a deal worth USD two billion with Israel to jointly develop the Iron Dome in India. Hence, it implies that the Iron Dome can be deployed along Pakistan’s border in case of any future conflict, which is a matter of great concern for Pakistan.
India and Israel have announced the joint development of a Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) system for the Indian Army as well. The specifications of the system are unknown; moreover, India is also interested in Israel’s medium to long-range rockets and the David Sling cruise missile defence system, with the range of 40 km -300 km. Another deal for around 320 Spike anti-tank guided missile systems (ATGMs) is also in the pipeline between both the sides.
The Indo-Israel defence nexus offers a boost to the Indian military side and explicitly disturbs the regional peace in South Asia. Such developments are targeted against Pakistan and drag it into an arms race
Besides, India is considering purchasing a 164 laser-designation pods or ‘Litening-4’ for the Indian Air Force fighters like Sukhoi-30MKIs and Jaguars, as well as 250 advanced Spice precision stand-off bombs capable of taking out fortified enemy command centers underground.
India’s stagnant effort to develop its indigenous armed drone, Rustom, will be replaced with Heron TP Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs), under the ‘Made in India’ program. India has fastened its efforts to develop this drone after Pakistan developed its indigenous UCAV Burraq in 2015. The Indian government reportedly approved the purchase of 10 Heron TP armed drones from Israel. It has been stated that these armed drones will be used against counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
Furthermore, past interactions between India and Israel on space collaboration suggest that both countries will further deepen their partnership on surveillance and reconnaissance against Pakistan and China as part of intelligence sharing. For instance, Israel’s highly developed spy satellite ‘Polaris’ was installed in space by an Indian space launch vehicle which allowed India to use certain images from this satellite. India is already moving from militarisation to weaponisation of space.
Like space, another area where Israel foresees India as its potential market is the selling of its cyber-related equipment and expertise. Under the counter-terrorism domain, Israel’s National Cyber Defence Authority has invited PM Modi to develop a partnership in civil and military cybersecurity, in addition to other areas of land and maritime border surveillance. Such military collaborations can be expanded further into trilateral military surveillance programs including the US, India, and Israel.
Israel provided military equipment and surveillance to India in 1965, and 1971, wars as well, in addition to the 1999 Kargil conflict. In the wake of 2008, Mumbai attacks, both sides established a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism followed by two agreements related to Cooperation in Homeland and Public Security, and the Protection of Classified Material.
Similarly, a collaboration on electronic fencing of the border wall along the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan to stop the cross-border infiltration by terrorists, is another step towards the provision of military assistance by Israel to India. Therefore, the Indo-Israel defence nexus offers a boost to the Indian military side and explicitly disturbs the regional peace in South Asia. Such developments are targeted against Pakistan and drag it into an arms race. Pakistan is a proponent of peace and regional stability and it discourages actions that undermine the peaceful environment of the region.
The author is a Visiting Research Fellow at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI)
Published in Daily Times, October 10th 2018.