Deepening Israeli ties
India’s decision to enter into joint development with Israel, cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), for medium range surface-to-air missiles (MR-SAM) for the Indian Army is a further sign of improving qualitative ties between the two nations since diplomatic relations were normalised in 1992. The deal is expected to be pegged at around Rs 17,000 crores for five regiments of the missile consisting of 200 pieces having a range of 50-70 km. It seeks joint development between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
The system will be manufactured in India and is likely to have 80 per cent indigenous content. Deliveries are set to begin by 2023. This system for the Army’s use will be based on the older production of Israeli Barack-8 missile system and for the Navy’s use collaboratively between DRDO and IAI.
To that extent, there is no novelty in the decision over mediumrange missiles for the Army. Indeed, if Prime Minister Narendra Modi does visit Israel in the coming months, as appears likely, it is not unthinkable that a more ambitious India-Israel relationship may be posited. This will be on the lines of the elevating of India-UAE ties after the PM’s trip to Abu Dhabi last year.
Given that India is already Israel’s largest arms buyer, and Israel is among the top three arms sellers to India — along with the US and Russia — New Delhi’s relations with the Jewish state have already attained something of a strategic dimension. Intelligence-sharing is also done due to common concerns relating to terrorism, even if on key international issues, specially those relating to West Asia, a gap still remains between India’s perceptions and Israel’s, although this gap is narrowing somewhat under Mr Modi, with India abstaining on UN resolutions which criticise Israel. This is the difference with the past.
Two leading considerations have guided the burgeoning of India’s ties with Israel. One, India’s relations with Israel’s Arab neighbours remains sound, except that New Delhi doesn’t allow one to have a veto over the other. Such a dynamic, underwritten by practical considerations, has not so far adversely affected either this country’s political stance on the Palestinian question or its deepening all-round ties with Israel.
Two, it is also felt in New Delhi that positive and expanding ties with Israel will help New Delhi develop a special constituency in the United States, with which successive Indian governments have sought to build close strategic ties, sometimes to criticism within the country. All in all, positive bilateral relations with Israel are useful to both sides. Specifically on defence acquisitions, the net should be expanded to take in the key European powers as well. From The Asian Age