Spy Satellites and India – Israel: The Imperatives for Strategic Cooperation

Glide to success with Doorsteptutor material for UGC : Get detailed illustrated notes covering entire syllabus: point-by-point for high retention.

Download PDF of This Page (Size: 108K)

Spy Satellites

  • Another area of cooperation is satellite imaging. In January 2008 India launched an advanced spy satellite on Israel’s behalf, capable of providing information on strategic installations in Iran. In April 2009 India launched its own spy satellite, acquired as a matter of urgency after the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008 that left 170 dead and revealed serious gaps in its territorial surveillance network. India also spent $600m on Israeli radar to strengthen the warning systems along its western seaboard.

  • Israel is certainly a privileged partner in India’s efforts to improve its territorial security systems. The countries are strengthening an already close cooperative relationship on counterterrorism. Israel has helped India to build a barrier along the “line of control”, its de facto border with Pakistan; it has provided surveillance systems to prevent infiltration by Islamist militants and Israelis are among the few outside consultants to have visited the theatre of operations in Kashmir.

  • New Delhi, like most of the international community, still supports the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state. But the crises between Israel and its neighbours have taught India to hedge its diplomatic bets. It tries to keep the relationship with Israel separate from the Middle East situation – to protect its cooperative relationship with Israel while taking care not to antagonise Arab countries. India’s official statements are carefully worded, condemning in turn the violence of the terrorist attacks against Israel and the brutality of the reprisals. While moving closer to Israel, India also began to develop ties with Iran in the early 2000s. Before Ariel Sharon’s visit in September 2003, New Delhi had received the Iranian president Mohammad Khatami. Paradoxically, the rapprochement with Israel has given India new leverage in its Middle East policy: since they cannot be sure of India’s support, Middle East countries pay greater heed to Indian interests.

  • The relationship with Israel is a delicate matter for internal even more than external reasons: India needs to consider the feelings of its Muslim minority (14% of the population). It also has to take account of the left wing, heirs to the anti-imperialist tradition, who protest against any overtly pro-Israel policy. Indian decision-makers strive for discretion in their dealings with Israel, but maintaining a balance is much more difficult in times of crisis: during the Lebanon war of 2006, New Delhi at first confined itself to hesitant condemnation of Israel’s actions, then hardened its tone under pressure from the communist parties and Muslim voters. Exasperation eventually led the Indian parliament to the unanimous adoption of a resolution condemning the offensive.

  • At a diplomatic level, India’s hesitation over the Middle East is the result of a predictable polarisation between those who take the traditional pro-Arab position and those in favour of partnership with Israel. But it also reveals internal tension between the need to appease a minority of 160 million who make India the world’s third largest Muslim population and a fascination with Israel’s methods, which some in New Delhi would like to try against terrorist movements based in Pakistan.

  • In the Pre-Independence period, Gandhi, Nehru and the Indian National Congress had opposed the creation of a ‘Jewish National Home’.

  • India did not subscribe to the majority plan of United Nations Special Committee on Palestine recommending partition of Palestine.

  • India voted against the admission of Israel into the United Nations in May 1949.

India – Israel : The Imperatives for Strategic Cooperation

For those who still subscribe to the old policies of domestic compulsions in terms of avoiding good relations with Israel, the imperatives for strengthening strategic cooperation needs to be spelt out.

Indian Imperatives – the Defence Field

  • Israel offers a valuable autonomous source for purchase of sophisticated weapons and military equipment, indigenously developed; it therefore, precludes external pressures on Israel not to supply.

  • Israel’s defence industries have earned a global reputation for upgradation of old weapon systems to latest technological capabilities. It applies to India’s vast holdings of Russian combat aircraft and tanks holdings. Israel has done it for number of countries.

  • Israel’s technological advances in the fields of satellites, satellite imagery, missiles, rockets and nuclear fields are appreciable. Most of them being indigenous developments, they can be a source of advanced technology for India.

  • Potential exists for India – Israel joint defence production and marketing of conventional military equipment. India’s under - utilised and aging defence production facilities could be modernised and upgraded for export purposes. Export earnings could subsidise India’s requirements for enhanced defence expenditure.

Indian Imperatives – the Intelligence Field

  • Israel from its existence recognised “that they needed excellent intelligence to aid their fight for survival. Their country was among the tiniest on earth but would have to develop the finest services in the world”. 8 They have done so in the form of Mossad (Foreign Operations), SHIN BET (domestic security) and AMAN (Army’s Intelligence Agency). Each one of them have acquired global reputation for excellence.9 This was achieved both by the imperatives of national survival and being “a synthesis of various traditions that were learned, adopted, inherited, or copied from other countries that have longer histories as states and more deeply ingrained intelligence customs”.10

  • With India facing both internal and external onslaughts from adversaries, India’s intelligence agencies need toning up. Israeli expertise would be invaluable as inputs for strengthening of India’s intelligence agencies.

  • India is under attack from Islamic fundamentalists. Intelligence exchanges with Israel would provide valuable inputs as Israel too is under similar attacks and has developed considerable expertise in dealing with them.

  • Israeli industries produce hi-tech sensitive gadgetry for intelligence purposes. India could tap this source for its requirements.

  • India’s counter-terrorism mechanisms and responses are poor. Israel experience could help.

Developed by: