India and Israel Strategic Partnership: Challenges and Opportunities
Today’s strategic environment provides boundless space for both the international and regional actors to understand, share and cooperate with each other in order to protect and secure their own national interest and maintain strategic stability within their own region. Every nation in the international affairs has its own strategic significance against another in terms of its strategic location for economic and military means. However, the geostrategic significance of one nation remains a threat to another nation’s own interest and stability within its region.
BY PRAFUL S. ADAGALE | June 2012
Similar is the case of Israel which is surrounded by its major neighbouring nations as Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon which are constantly in the state of unrest due to various regional and inter-state conflicts in the Arab world. This situation also resembles similar for India with countries as Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Srilanka, which remain burning due to its inter –state, inter – religious, political unrest, ethnic conflicts, traditional and non-traditional security threats as reported on the world conflict database, and by and large remain serious concerns to India’s national interest.
In this context, the relationship between the two major players in the strategic calculus is of utmost concern considering the geostrategic significance of the two countries.
- Historical background
Since, India’s independence post 1947, there was no formal relationship with Israel. India recognized the state of Israel in 1950, two years after its establishment in 1948. However, India’s pro-Arab attitude and its strong commitment to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which created rift and division between these two countries. In 1992 a significant diplomatic change occurred, when India and Israel established full diplomatic relations which reached new heights under the successive Indian Governments headed by BJP (1998-2004).
The relationship with Israel is purely based on the cooperation in the field of defence and security matters. The strategic partnership with Israel presupposes a broad understanding of mutual security concern that is common to the interest for both nations. The end of Cold war created a breathing space for major rising powers around the globe to choose partners of common interest and concern for each other. So was the case of Israel which appeared to be more appealing to India’s foreign policy. There were four major causes that lead to the building of the strategic partnership from both sides. Firstly, India’s immediate concern in post soviet disintegration was to maintain its defence and technological needs updated. Whereas Israel ambition was to gain military superiority in the Arab world by gaining access in South Asian region. Secondly, it was also important for India to overcome the propaganda unleashed by Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Thirdly, in case of Israel which recognised India’s immediate needs in near future are importing of sophisticated technological weapons and armaments. Lastly, Israel also realised India’s concern to maintain peace in the Arab world. On these parameters it became imperative for India to choose Israel as its leading arms exporter for military supplies, having not forgotten Israel assistance to provide immediate help to India during war in 1962 and 1965 with China and Pakistan respectively. India helped Israel during the 1967 Middle Eastern conflict, by covertly sending military equipment to Israel. Diplomatic exchange between the two countries on diverse subjects related to gathering of intelligence input through secret channels, military to military exchange programme, cooperation in the field of science and technology as well as space and nuclear science where discussed and shared at top levels. However, most of the visits remain unclassified in local media reports due to India’s political clashes.
- Commonalities of interest
The major area of concern that remains compounded to both countries had become the milestone for building the relationship between the two in the area of defence and security cooperation. In case of Israel the major threat emanating out from its immediate neighbourhood Iran due to its nuclear programme and support for terrorist groups, where as India’s remains concerned with the Pakistan nuclear arsenal and terrorist activities based in Pakistan. Both countries are pursuing their common hegemonic agendas of ‘Greater Israel’ and ‘Akhand Bharat’, since their inception. Both countries have an oppressive attitude and hostility towards their neighbors and, both have forcibly occupied areas beyond their geographical borders. The strategic partnership remains more intact due to Israel consistent assistance to India and its concern to maintain peace and stability in South Asia, which can be reflected in the Afghanistan war, the kargil crisis of 1999, the attack on the Indian parliament, the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. In all these major turmoil Israel provided assistance at diplomatic, economic and more vital was the intelligence inputs to Indian government. It was provided bulk of proposal floating in the ministry of defence post 26/11 to upgrade its special forces the NSG and the defence forces with high-tech cutting edge technologically sophisticated weapons and equipments.
The major concern for both countries is its immediate neighbours Pakistan and Iran illegal nuclear arsenal and its proliferation in the hands of the terrorists. It was in this respect that the Indian national security advisor, Brajesh Mishra, outlined a proposal in a speech to the American Jewish Committee in Washington in May 2003 that India, Israel, and the United States should unite to combat the common threat of Islamic fundamentalism. He argued that democratic nations that face the menace of international terrorism should form a “viable alliance” and develop multilateral mechanisms to counter this menace.