By Asma Khalid*
Since 1992, India-Israel’s economic and strategic ties have grown spectacularly as both states are significantly co-operating in the agricultural sector, research and development and IT start-ups. Cooperation between both states has been significantly increasing irrespective of the political affiliation of the party in power. Although, bilateral relations have moved beyond the traditional spheres, defense and security ties along with secret intelligence operations, are dominant factors of their bilateral relations.
Israel is a leading developer of highly sophisticated weapons systems and ranked among the top ten weapons exporters of the world. Israel is the third largest arms supplier to India. The recent visit of Narendra Modi to the Israel has enhanced the scope of bilateral strategic and security cooperation. The focus of both states was to shift India-Israel’s bilateral relations from the buyer-seller model to the transfer and co-production of technology, which will further boost the objective of “Make in India initiative”.
In this regard, Israel is also exploring the joint production of drones with India that would contribute to PM Modi’s strategy of ‘Make in India’. India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is responsible for collaborating with Israeli companies in a host of strategic ventures, including the Agni missile system. Israel being the third largest weapon supplier to India, and co-production of advanced weaponry, has qualitatively upgraded India-Israel defense ties.
Moreover, the four significant pillars of India and Israel’s defense ties include: First, the most significant is export of Israel’s weapon system. In this regarded India has acquired BARAK-1, anti-tank missiles to aerial reconnaissance drones and both states signed defense contracts worth billions in USD.
Second is the export of components and sub-system mainly electronics. Third is a joint venture regarding the weapons program and this joint venture in the defense sphere is viewed as a main thrust to the future defense ties between India and Israel.
The fourth are is the export of India’s military services and hardware to Israel. India acquires UAVs, radars, AWACS, laser guided bombs and missiles from Israel. Recently, Israel Aerospace Industries signed an agreement to supply $630 million worth of long-range surface-to-air missile systems to the Indian navy.
According to analysts, these widening arcs of shared defense interests could have serious implications not only for the South Asian strategic environment, but also for strategic stability of Asia. Constructive contribution of Indo-Israel Defence Partnership in India’s armed forces modernization will allow India to aggressively pursue its ambitions against its neighbors China and Pakistan.
Two factors have contributed to India-Israel’s stronger ties: first is that both states share a common stance on NPT, India and Israel have special relations with the United States and the most significant factor that is significantly playing its role in bilateral ties of India-Israel is that both states consider Pakistan as a common enemy.
Due to this factor, India is playing the Pakistan card as a striking reason to enhance defense ties with Israel. In this regard a senior analyst, Richard M. Rossow in Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) stated that, “Israel has, over the years, become more comfortable equipping India with weapon systems that may be employed against its neighbor Pakistan-more so than the United States, which he said was looking to “equip India more for maritime domain activity.”
Due to these factors and Israel’s willingness to help the Indian army against Pakistan and China, India-Israel’s defense ties are considered as threat to the security of Pakistan, as well as regional stability.
India-Israel defense co-operation resolves the common objective of achieving technological development and seeking qualitative superiority. India aims to play a dominant role in South Asia through the strategic program currently undertaken by both countries. To conclude, India-Israel defense cooperation is a matter of concern for regional states, especially for Pakistan, because such defense related developments have the potential to disturb regional security equation and instigate a lethal arms race.
*Asma Khalid, is Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad. Can be reach at [email protected]