Apparently appearing to be strange bedfellows, India and Israel have made conscious efforts to come together. Though they appear distinct but there is a curious similarity in Zionism and Hindutva as both are mutually exclusive concepts unwilling to accommodate any other point of view. They emerge out of inward-looking psychological imperatives and remain isolated from the evolving world around them. Almost similar to Zionist perception of isolation, Hindu nationalists have also constructed a narrative of Hindus as historically the victims who suffered at the hands of Muslims throughout centuries long Muslim rule in the subcontinent. Like its neighbouring Arab world, India continues to have a turbulent relationship with Pakistan.
It is becoming apparent that Zionist nationalism has conveniently latched onto Hindu nationalism and both are now willing partners in the so-called war on terror that they strongly term as Islamic terror. Surprisingly, India did not establish diplomatic relations with Israel till 1992, but once both countries came into contact they started harping upon security dangers emanating out of the non-acceptance by Pakistan and the Arab world of the lopsided territorial divisions created by colonial powers. Zionist nationalism and Hindu nationalism is fast becoming the foundation stone of relationship between Israel and India though it is simultaneously proving harmful to the peaceful existence in their respective regions.
The deepening friendship between Israel and India is conveniently forgetful of the fact that Israel is ringed by Muslim populations and that India has the world’s third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan – upward of 180 million people. The ultra-rightist BJP and Likud parties are building their narratives completely ignoring the sensitivities of the existing demographic realities. The convergence of extremist points of views harboured by political fringes has been instrumental in creating a frenzied atmosphere in their countries intensely causing irreparable damage to communal and regional relations.
Narendra Modi is credited with finally de-hyphenating India’s relationship with Israel from Palestine. Though India has traditionally stood on the sidelines regarding Israel’s attitude about Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular but Modi has decisively ended the prior behind-the-scenes policy of India and is now openly flouting cooperation in defense and intelligence. The main reason given for this departure of policy is that if the Arab world can engage with Israel despite proclaiming to be the biggest supporter of the Palestinian cause, India can certainly be more honest with Israel. India’s ties with Israel have always been embroiled in its own domestic politics but in recent years a wider political consensus has emerged on strong Indo-Israeli ties.
India is now increasing ties with Israel that range from defense to economy, high-end technology cooperation to boosting people-to-people linkages through cinema and tourism. Israel’s technological prowess remains unmatched in areas as diverse as waste management and reprocessing, desalination, agriculture, waste water recycling, health, biotechnology and nanotechnology. It is a sign of a mature partnership between India and Israel that India’s vote at the UN against President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem and the reported cancellation of the Spike anti-tank guided missile deal did not vitiate the budding relationship.
The core of cooperation is Indo-Israel counterterrorism nexus that has been scaled up gradually over the last few years through a joint working group on terrorism. Intelligence-sharing in this realm has been the most important element of this partnership. Israel is helping India improve border management along the India-Pakistan border given Israel’s experience in dealing with cross-border infiltration and terrorism. Cyber-security cooperation is also expanding, with cyber-security academies being set up in India by an Israeli company, Vital Intelligence Group.
India cultivates the special relationship with a view to contain Pakistan. In this context India was Israel’s largest arms client paying $700 million for Israeli air defence and radar systems. It is also supplying ammunition, including air-to-ground missiles, most of them tested during Israel’s military offensives against Palestinians and targets in Syria. The Israelis have filmed joint exercises between their own “special commando” units and those sent by India to be trained in the Negev desert. At least 16 Indian “Garud” commandos – part of a 45-strong Indian military delegation – were for some time based at the Nevatim and Palmachim air bases in Israel.
The close cooperation between Israel and India is amply reflected in the ‘surgical strikes’ parlance adopted by India as it was precisely an Israeli interpretation of sweeping air-and-ground raids it carried out in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Israel has specialised in precision-weapons technology and uses them with impunity in densely packed urban localities in its neighbouring countries. Israel keeps on fine-tuning its weaponry through its frequent attempts to crush Arab civilian groups protesting against its hard-line policies. It also is continuously engaged in attacking armed groups operating in the area fighting Israeli occupation.
There were reports about large-scale supplies of Israeli smart bombs to India and also of special Israeli units frequenting India for imparting training to Indian forces. The close collaboration between Israel and India came to fore when Israeli-made Rafael Spice-2000 “smart bombs” were used by the Indian air force in its strike against border regions of Pakistan after Pulawama incident. The SPICE — standing for Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective — was developed by the government-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The approximately 1,000 kilogram (2,200 pounds) air-to-ground missiles were launched by Indian Mirage fighter jets. The powerful missile can be fired up to 100 kilometers away from the target. It uses GPS coordinates to locate a target and on-board cameras to ensure that the munition is striking the correct location. The raids were conducted according to the ‘Israeli model’ now adopted by India involving spurts of aggressive sorties covered by supporting aircraft.
Israel is also reported to have provided India with the Mini Harpy combine—Harop and Harpy—loitering missiles to blend electro-optical and RF and microwave sensors. The Mini Harpy can neutralise RF transmitters like radar; uses electro-optical sensors to capture threats on video and can launch from land sites, from helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, and surface warships. This smart weapon can loiter, lock on to targets, and destroys targets by crashing into with the Mini Harpy’s 18-pound explosive warhead. Electrically powered, it has a range of about 62 miles. The possibility of India using this weapon against Pakistan is real requiring strict monitoring of maritime borders.
India also is reported to obtain smart weapons manufacturing technology from Israel as India prefers to acquire manufacturing rights. During the recent raids, what India lacked was the intense motivation of fighting personnel and their high-level of training resulting in losing an aircraft in the dogfight during the recent attack. Israel military personnel have proved their superiority in engagement terms and they capitalise on sophisticated weaponry developed by their scientists.
The failure of cross-border air raids against Pakistan has made the Modi government to feel deeply embarrassed and it is fuming with anger. It appears that it may devise future plans according to advice tendered by Israel. India is quite sure about the international support it will garner in case of another aggressive action against Pakistan as the international community gives unnecessary weightage to the economic advantages available in remaining on the right-side of India. It has already made inroads in the Muslim world as OIC allowed India to participate in its session and also let Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj speak during the session using this forum to blame terrorism. Pakistan understandably is annoyed by the OIC meeting held in Abu Dhabi and has openly stated boycotting it. TW
Fahad Ali is associated with maritime trade