India-Israel defence co-operation: Regional implications
By Asma Khalid
Since 1992, India-Israel’s economic and strategic ties have grown spectacularly as well as both states are significantly co-operating in agricultural sector, research and development and IT start-ups. Co-operation between both states has been significantly increasing irrespective of the political affiliation of the party in power. Although, bilateral relations has been moved beyond the traditional spheres but defence and security ties along with secret intelligence operations is dominant factor of their bilateral relations.
Israel is top developers of highly sophisticated weapons systems and ranked among the top ten weapons exporters of the world. Israel is 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. Focus of the 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 joint production of drones with India which would contribute to PM Modi’s strategy of ‘Make in India’. India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is responsible to collaborate 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 upgrade India-Israel defence ties.
Moreover, the four significant pillars of India and Israel’s defence ties includes: 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 has signed defence contracts worth billions in USD. Second is export of components and sub-system mainly electronics. Third is joint venture regarding the weapons program and this joint venture in defence sphere is viewed as a main thrust to the future defense ties between India and Israel. The fourth is 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 has 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 defence interests would 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 both states shares common stance on NPT, India and Israel has special relations with Unites States and most significant factor which 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 card of Pakistan’s as a striking reason to enhance defence 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 defence ties are considered as threat to the security of Pakistan as well as the regional stability.
India-Israel defence co-operation revolves the common objective of achieving technological development and seeking qualitative superiority. India aims to play dominant role in South Asia through the strategic program currently undertaken by both countries. To conclude, India-Israel defence co-operation is matter of concern for regional states especially of Pakistan, because such defence related developments has potential to disturb regional security equation and instigate lethal arms race.
Asma Khalid is a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.