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Israel ties sharpen India's military edge

Source : Daily Pioneer

Israel ties sharpen India's military edge
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Through its multi-alignment policy, India has de-hyphenated relations with Palestine, and gets cooperation from Israel in a range of Defence measures


Bilateral relations with Israel are thirty years old, one aspect of which, sources indicate, is that country extending military help to India even during the Cold War period, especially during the 1971 war with Pakistan. Its no-strings-attached help with ammunition and laser-guided missiles during the Kargil conflict years later had transformed the battlespace in India's favour. The contribution of Israel can be assessed just by the Phalcon air radar system and the joint production of the Barak missile defence system.

Previous governments could not strike a balance between Israel and Palestine and hence always saw Israel from the prism of the Palestinian issue. On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017 and 2018 visited Israel and Palestine, respectively, and this marked the first-ever visit of India's political leadership. In 2018, the then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid an official visit to India. Since then, the relations between the two countries have seen an upward trajectory.

The security and the foreign policy acknowledged that India's pursuit of politico-strategic equilibrium remains incomplete without Israel. Through the multi-alignment policy, India has de-hyphenated its relations with Palestine, and hence has moved much ahead with Israel in terms of cooperation in counter-terrorism measures, including intelligence sharing and missile supplies. The use of precision-guided Spice bombs in the non-military surgical strikes strongly indicates the choice of weapons that Israel can offer to India. As Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz is on an upcoming visit, it becomes essential to analyse the possible contours of coordination between the two countries.

The Quad Joint Leaders' Statement 2022 condemned the Mumbai and the Pathankot attacks and pledged to "take concerted action against all terrorist groups, including those individuals and entities designated pursuant to the UNSC Resolution 1267(1999)". This is a significant development as the perpetrators of 26/11 continue to be shielded by Pakistan. The statement might indicate a crucial upcoming development. Is it possible that the CIA, Mossad and RAW can actively coordinate to use different coercion tools against the terror groups that harmed the joint interests of the three?

Possible coordination between the three agencies is necessary from another perspective. The recent use of Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers (RPG) in the Mohali terror attacks and the findings that the US military hardware left in Afghanistan is now landing in Kashmir expands the horizon of Pakistan's proxy war against India. The shrinking foreign exchange reserves and mounting external debt apart from the Baloch and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan attacks on the military establishment might lead to a full-blown civil war in Pakistan. To divert attention, Rawalpindi might resort to terror attacks against the Indian interests to escalate the tensions that might endanger the South Asian peace and security. The next few months are all the more critical for India's security. In such a scenario, India's operational preparedness should be high.

To defeat terror, India should integrate its available and new technologies with the help of Israel and the US. There can be active cooperation between the two countries for technology transfer or the direct purchase of the Iron Dome Air Defence System to protect military installations prone to attacks by Pakistan-based proxies. Rafael Advanced Defence Systems have developed the Iron dome. Its Active cooperation with ISRO and DRDO can be sought to collaborate on futuristic weapons based on Artificial Intelligence and precise weaponry for external and internal security purposes. If made possible, it can significantly defeat Pakistan's sinister objectives.

Israel has also gained expertise in weaponizing intelligence where the adversary's military and proxies' build-up are internationally exposed. The exposure of the covert 2010 military deployment of Hezbollah and the 2018 secret atomic warehouse in Tehran are examples wherein Israel has actively used its intelligence to avoid escalation. Intelligence weaponization sends strong signals that the covert operations have been exposed and need to be halted immediately; failing which surgical strikes can soon follow. Also, it serves as an essential tool in perception management and psychological warfare, which play an essential role in building up the narratives in the home country and the international community apart from the adversary population. Coordination in intelligence can be helpful for India, wherein it can expose the terror launch pads from across the LOC. Such measures can also have the sword of being blacklisted in FATF hanging over Pakistan. Nevertheless, the use of strategic communication witnessed in the post-Pulwama non-military surgical strikes can be clubbed with intelligence weaponization to restrict the scope of Pakistan's terror manoeuvring.

Concerning energy security, it has to be recalled that India could not materialise its TAPI and IPI pipeline dream because of the Pakistan factor. However, to overcome the geographical constraint of Pakistan, apart from the other geopolitical competing interests like the Pak-Turkish alliance, Modi has crafted the 'Act West' policy. Other strategic interests include intelligence sharing, defence, cyber, and maritime security. From a futuristic perspective, the emergence of multilateral Mediterranean "security architectures" has become profound with the discovery of natural gas fields in Israel's Eastern Mediterranean offshore Tamar (2009) and Leviathan (2010), apart from Cyprus's Aphrodite (2011) and Egypt's Zohar (2015).

The rise of the EastMed energy alliance that intends to take natural gas to Europe can be an essential natural gas source for India. If the Abraham accord, which is already in place, can be extended to include Saudi Arabia, the natural gas can be brought to India too via underwater pipelines. The same week Benny Gantz would be in India, Israel's NSA Eyal Hulata is scheduled to meet his US counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington to normalise relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. If all goes well, the alliance between Israel, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. would be in place, and India can join the alliance for its energy and security requirements. Last year, the logic of India's strategic alliance axes got a stronghold with the first closed-door virtual meeting between foreign ministers of India, Israel, UAE and the US. India is on its path to be a part of the formulation of a structural framework that could be a win-win situation for the regional and the extra-regional players to push back the terror-sponsoring countries apart from the expansionist forces.

As President Joe Biden has decided to retain the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on the US list of sanctioned terror organisations, it might negatively affect the prospects of a new nuclear deal with Iran. This will lead to the sharpening of the strategic polarisations in India's western neighbourhood, and China's influence over Iran is bound to increase. Simultaneous geopolitical convergences between India, Israel and the US to fight terror will also increase the threat factor. India and Israel have to be cautious concerning the attempts of the various proxy groups to harm the Israeli diplomats in India. For instance, Tal Yehoshua-Koren, wife of the Israeli defence attaché to India, was targeted in 2012 while an explosion took place near the Israeli Embassy on the 29th Anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral relations. It is only through joint efforts in human and signal intelligence that such attacks can be averted. Overall, the future is bright for India's overwhelming presence in West Asia.

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