Sobia ShahnazSunday, July 04, 2010 - Indo-Israeli relations refer to the bilateral ties between the State of Israel and the Republic of India. Relations between Israel and Republic of India did not exist until 1992 but since then the two countries have developed relationships. India did not recognize the state of Israel until then for two main reasons. Firstly, although India belonged to Non-Aligned Movement it was an ally of the USSR and yet followed the general pattern of non-aligned countries with regards to foreign relations. Secondly, India was a strong supporter of the Palestinian independence.
After the Kashmiri insurrection in 1989 the collapse of the USSR and the military escalation with Pakistan the political framework changed resulting in the establishment of relations between India and Israel in 1992. Establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel also was a step in strengthening relationships with the US. Israel is now India’s second largest arms provider after Russia. India and Israel have increased cooperation in military and intelligence ventures since the establishment of diplomatic relations. India recently launched a military satellite for Israel through its Indian Space Research Organization.
In 1996 India purchased 32 Searcher Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Electronic Support Measure sensors and an Air Combat Manoeuvering Instrumentation simulator system from Israel. Since then Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) has serviced several large contracts with the Indian Air Force including the upgrading of the IAF’s Russian-made MiG-21 ground attack aircraft and there have been further sales of unmanned aerial vehicles as well as laser-guided bombs. In 1997 Israel’s President Ezer Weizman became the first head of the Jewish state to visit India. He met with Indian President Shankar Dayal Sharma, Vice President K.R Narayanan and Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda. Weizman negotiated the first weapons deal between the two nations involving the purchase of Barak-1 vertically launched surface-to-air (SAM) missiles from Israel. The Barak-1 has the ability to intercept anti-ship cruise missiles such as the Harpoon. The purchase of the Barak-1 missiles from Israel by India was a tactical necessity since Pakistan had purchased P3-C II Orion maritime strike aircraft and 27 Harpoon sea-skimming anti-ship missiles from the United States.
In naval terms Israel sees great strategic value in an alliance with the Indian Navy given India’s dominance of South Asian waters. Since the Mediterranean has a dominant Arab and European presence that is hostile to the Israeli navy in varying degrees, it thus sees the potential of establishing a logistical infrastructure in the Indian Ocean with the cooperation of the Indian Navy. In 2000 Israeli submarines reportedly conducted test launches of cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in the waters of the Indian Ocean off the Sri Lanka coast. In 2003, Israel’s Minister for Science and Technology said that Israel was keen on strengthening science and technology ties with India considering that the latter had a rich base of scientists and technologists and the two countries could benefit by synergising their activities. In 2003, the two countries proposed to double the investment under the ongoing science and technology collaboration to $1 million with $0.5 million from each country in the next biennial period starting October 2004. In 2004 the Ministry of Science and Technology in India signed an MoU with Israel for jointly funding industrial R&D projects. In an agreement signed on May 30, 2005 India and Israel pledged to set up a fund to encourage investment and joint industrial ventures.
According to the Press Trust of India there are five priority areas for enhanced collaboration: nanotechnology, biotechnology, water management, alternative energy, and space and aeronautics. India and Israel will each start by contributing US$1 million to provide risk-free grants to entrepreneurs in the two countries. India purchased 50 Israeli drones for $220 million in 2005. India is also in the process of obtaining missile-firing Hermes 450s. India is building closer ties with Israel in the areas of nanotechnology, information technology, water technology and biotechnology.
Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd signed a $2.5 billion deal with India to develop an anti-aircraft system and missiles for the country in the biggest defense contract in the history of Israel at the time. IAI CEO Yitzhak Nissan visited India to finalize the agreement with heads of the defense establishment and the country’s president. IAI is developing the Barak-8 missile for the Indian Navy and Air Force which is capable of protecting sea vessels and ground facilities from aircraft and cruise missiles. The missile has a range of over 70 kilometres. On November 10, 2008, Indian military officials visited Israel to discuss joint weapons development projects, additional sales of Israeli equipment to the Indian military, and counter-terrorism strategies. The round of talks was seen as a significant expansion in the Indian-Israeli strategic partnership. Bilateral trade which was at $200 million in 2001, grew to $4.1 billion by 2009, excluding defense trade. This includes manufacturing, satellite launch, agriculture and diamond industries. In 2008, PBEL, a joint venture of two Israeli real estate firms and an Indian developer, announced an investment of $1 billion in real estate projects in India. India’s commerce minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia, visited Israel in February 2010 to discuss a free-trade agreement. He met with Israeli president Shimon Peres; Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, and representatives of Israel’s water technology and high-tech industries.
India is relying on import of components and collaboration. India’s attempts to improve its defense system with the aim to counter its nuclear-armed adversary, Pakistan, have been greatly supported by Israeli weaponry that includes surface-to-air missiles, avionics, and sophisticated sensors to monitor cross-border infiltration, remotely piloted drones, and artillery. The motives of both countries in pursuing cooperation range from strategic, security and military to political and economic. In this regard, the most important is the nuclear dimension. India also makes use of its nuclear cooperation with Israel in maintaining qualitative superiority over its enemy, Pakistan. So Indo-Israel ties are a security threat for Pakistan.