An IDC Analysis

(With excerpts from Harsh Pant) 


New Delhi, 06 January 2005

India–Israel relations have featured several times on our site in the past, which may all be accessed from ‘Previous Stories’ on the ‘What’s Hot’ page. Here is another analysis in the same vein.

In the Intelligence field there were bonds even before diplomatic relations were established, but in recent years these have developed into commercial links and a healthy military supplier, anti terrorist adviser and more recently nuclear cum BMD helper. USAs sanctions against India after Pokhran II blast aided the process and the BJP Government learnt how to order Israeli equipment which benefited both sides. The Israelis understood India’s needs, kept secrets well and the services found it easy to deal with them and many close connections were developed. Service Chiefs of both counties confided in each other.

Many Indian journalists have been well hosted in Israel and at Aero India 2005 (Bangalore, 05–08 February), Israel is expected be in full force. They have on offer upgrades for the MiG 29, MiG 27 and Navy helicopters. The modus operandi of purchases from Israel has proved very effective and Naval UAVs were successfully flown off the Cochin and Andaman coast, even in the Tsunami relief operations. The list of purchases include 100 UAVs (Searcher and Heron), Tavor and Galil rifles, special forces gear, litening pods, radars including Green Pine, assorted ammunition, EW equipment, Barak and other missiles and upgradation of 130 mm guns with Soltam kits. Besides these are collaborations with HAL for the Dhruv and other items and with BEL for Tadiran communication sets and Electro optics.

The $1.5 billion Phalcon deal is the one that will put India on the world stage for net centric warfare in 2007, if all the three services and ISRO collaborate, and the BrahMos flourishes. The Navy and the IAF have very close links with Israelis and Israel has professionally hosted many Indian senior officers and now opened four offices in India. There was much speculation that the UPA Government would lessen the India–Israel bonds but that has not happened.

Focus on Israel’s nuclear story would be in order before we put up excerpts from Harsh Pant’s article, since the opposition recently chided the PM in Parliament, on the UPA Government’s nuclear policy. PM Manmohan Singh affirmed there was certainty in the country's nuclear policy, which was based on "continuity and national consensus”. He said, ”These are issues best kept above partisan politics. I categorically say there is no uncertainty in our nuclear policy." Israel can tacitly help India in BMD and Indian intelligence connections are very good with Israel. The Arrow system is on offer and the US is offering the Patriot PAC 3 and Russia has warned India must take the PMU 300 series and not ‘mix and match’. For India to have a credible nuclear defence and protection Israel can be a good bet!

Israel’s Nuclear Story

During October 1986, revelations of Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu to the ‘Sunday Times’ indicated that Israel has produced tritium and lithium deuteride suggesting that Israel may have developed “boosted” nuclear weapons. Seymour Hersh again in a 1991 publication, relying on United States intelligence analysts and “knowledgeable” Israelis, stated that Israel possessed a significant number of low-yield enhanced-radiation type warheads mainly in the form of artillery shells and land mines as well as full-fledged thermonuclear weapons. An articulate 1994 report identified Nahal Soreq as the Israeli installation for conducting research on nuclear weapons design. Assembly is done at Yodefat. Nuclear gravity bombs are sheltered at Kfar Zekharya while the tactical nuclear weapons at Eilabun just like India’s bombs are stowed at BARC.

The Israeli Heyl Ha’Avir (Air Force) deploys missiles and numerous aircraft capable of delivery of nuclear weapons and India can learn form their knowledge. Presently the premier strike platform is the F-15I Ra’am (Thunder). Based on United States F-15E Strike Eagle the first Israeli squadron was declared operational during 1999. In accordance to “Begin doctrine” put forward by ex Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Israeli F-16s destroyed the Iraqi plutonium-producing Osiraq research reactor in a daring air raid on June 7, 1981 to “block any attempt by adversaries to acquire nuclear weapons”. Top cover was provided by the F-15s.Today and we have the SU 30 MKI. and Green Pine radar, which India reportedly bought, which is said to be capable of tracking ballistic missiles from a range of up to 500 km while intercept of the attacking missile may occur 140 km away at an altitude of 60 km.

Excerpts From MERIA –– The Middle East Review Of International Affairs

Volume 8, No. 4.Article 6 - December 2004

India-Israel Partnership: Convergence and Constraints

Coutersy: Harsh V. Pant

There has been a steady strengthening of India's relationship with Israel ever since India established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, despite Indian attempts to keep this flourishing bilateral relationship out of public view. A flourishing Indo-Israeli relationship has the potential to make a significant impact on global politics by altering the balance of power, not only in South Asia and the Middle East, but also in the larger Asian region, which has been in a state of flux in recent times. However, notwithstanding the convergence of interests on a range of issues between India and Israel, this bilateral relationship will have to be carefully managed because of a host of constraints which circumscribe this relationship. This study examines those factors which are bringing the two nations increasingly closer and the constraints that might make it difficult for this relationship to achieve its full potential.

A flourishing Indo-Israeli relationship has the potential to make a significant impact on global politics by altering the balance of power, not only in South Asia and the Middle East, but also in the larger Asian region, which has been in a state of flux in recent times.

Convergence Of Interests

When Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was given a red carpet welcome during his visit to India in September 2003, the world was forced to take notice of how dramatically the bilateral ties between India and Israel have grown since the early 1990s. …The terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and their aftermath also made the two nations realize the importance of cooperating on a larger scale to counter terrorism. 

It was in this respect that the Indian national security advisor, Brajesh Mishra, outlined a proposal in a speech to the American Jewish Committee in Washington in May 2003 that India, Israel, and the United States should unite to combat the common threat of Islamic fundamentalism. He argued that democratic nations that face the menace of international terrorism should form a "viable alliance" and develop multilateral mechanisms to counter this menace.

India and Israel not only exchange crucial intelligence information on Islamist terrorist groups but Israel is also helping India to fight terrorism in Kashmir by providing important logistical support such as specialized surveillance equipment, cooperation in intelligence gathering, joint exercises, and cooperation to stop money laundering and terror funding. The tactics used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the guerilla and urban warfare it wages against Palestinian terror in the West Bank and Gaza Strip can be fruitfully adopted by the Indian security forces in countering insurgency.

With huge investments in research and development, Israeli weapon systems are considered the cutting edge in various areas of the international arms market, even compared to American and European products. A large part of the imported equipment to modernize the Indian Army battalions as part of the Rs. 3, 290 crore (over $700 million) investment is also likely to come from Israel.

India and Israel are also currently negotiating the possible sale of the Arrow-II anti-ballistic missile defense system to India, which wants to strengthen its air defense capabilities. Though Israel is more than willing to sell the system, it needs American approval since the U.S. was a collaborator in the project. However, India has already acquired the advanced "Green Pine" fire control radars from Israel. This is a transportable phased-array radar which forms a crucial component of the Arrow system and can detect and track incoming missiles from up to 500km away. 

There has been a six-fold increase in India's trade with Israel in the last decade with India becoming Israel's second-largest trading partner in Asia in non-military goods and services. India's non-military trade with Israel reached $1.27 billion in 2002 from just $202 million in 1992, which is still not commensurate with the vast potential. Also, a single product, diamonds, accounts for nearly 65 percent of total trade. 

New areas of cooperation have also been identified by the two states, including the agricultural sector, farm research, science, public health, information technology, telecommunications, and cooperation in space. Israel will also be installing a set of three wide-field ultra-violet telescopes on India's GSAT-4 satellite that will be launched in 2005. India and Israel have decided to set up a joint fund for research and development, with the aim of promoting technology-based trade and collaboration that will help them tap into the global market together. 

India's Relations with Iran

Another constraint on India's enhanced engagement with Israel is India's flourishing relations with Iran. In fact, the RAND Corporation of the United States has termed this relationship as "the Tehran-New Delhi axis" and in its opinion, it is one of the ten international security developments that are not getting appropriate attention.And this is primarily because of the impact that closer ties between India and Iran might have on the Middle Eastern political dynamic, and which might not necessarily help U.S. interests in the region. 


The current international environment, however, is particularly favorable to a deepening of Indo-Israeli ties. How far the two sides are willing to make use of this opportunity depends ultimately on the political will in the two states. The people of India and Israel have a long history of civilizational contact and it is only natural for the two states to cooperate more closely with each other on issues ranging from defense cooperation and counterterrorism to trade and cultural exchanges. There are significant mutual benefits that the two states can gain from a vibrant partnership with each other.

*Harsh V. Pant is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana (United States). His research interests include international security issues and South Asian security.

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