India-Israel Defence cooperation: Regional Implications

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting President Reuven Rivlin during former’s state visit to Israel, first ever by an Indian Prime Minister. Credit: Wikipedia

Asma Khalid

Since 1992, India-Israel’s economic and strategic ties have grown spectacularly as well as both states are significantly co-operating in the 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 have been moved beyond the traditional spheres defence and security ties along with secret intelligence operations is the dominant factor in 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. The focus of the both states was to shift India-Israel’s bilateral relations from the buyer-seller model to the transfer and coproduction 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 which 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 is the third largest weapon supplier to India, and co-production of advanced weaponry has qualitatively upgrade India-Israel defense ties.

Moreover, the four significant pillars of India and Israel’s defense ties include: First, The most significant is the export of Israel’s weapon system. In this regarded India has acquired BARAK-1, anti-tank missiles to aerial reconnaissance drones and both states have signed defense contracts worth billions in USD. Second is the export of components and sub-system mainly electronics. The third is joint venture regarding the weapons program and this joint venture in defense sphere is viewed as a central thrust to the future defense ties between India and Israel. The fourth 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 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 defense interests would have grave consequences not only for the South Asian strategic environment but also for the strategic stability of Asia. The 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 the United States, and a 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 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 a threat to the security of Pakistan as well as the regional stability.

India-Israel defense cooperation revolves 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 of Pakistan, because such defense related developments have potential to disturb regional security equation and instigate lethal arms race.

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