What’s the problem with Indo-Israeli relations?


Image result for pics of netanyahu and modi

Many moons ago — in 1994 in fact, in my first book  — ‘Future Imperilled: India’s Security in the 1990s and Beyond’ (Viking-Penguin), in the lead chapter,  I had detailed a geopolitically ambitious security architecture for India anchored at the two ends of Asia, in the “tech savvy” Israel and the economically-muscular Japan, with India as the natural pivot able to switch forces and resources east and west, with the Southeast Asian littoral on the South China Sea that I had identified as China’s “soft underbelly” and the front where India needed to begin its pushback against China. 24 years later, that scheme is being realized, albeit fitfully. The blame for the tardiness in obtaining this geostrategic design is, however, entirely Delhi’s owing to the Indian government’s default option — which tendency first became apparent during Narasimha Rao’s tenure — of looking to America for solutions, rather than getting on with the strategic business of the country and furthering one’s interests in the most aggressive way possible by itself.

Around 2000, I had written  a paper for presentation at a Conference at the University of the Negev, which event was cancelled owing to the initiation of the 2nd Palestinian intifada (2000-2005) virtually on the eve of the conference. This paper advocated a meshing of Indian and Israeli defence industries with, in broad terms, India providing the main market and part of the investment for development of high-tech armaments and miltech, and Israel its design and development skills and competencies and a transfer of its production wherewithal to manufacture conventional military bulk goods — infantry weapons, artillery, tanks etc. fully to India to meet the needs of the two countries, and for export to states in Africa, Asia and Latin America. I had argued that such a combination would result in the emergence of one of the most formidable integrated military-industrial complexes in the world, besides serving the strategic purposes of the two countries.

My advocacy of such a Combine led, around 2002 or so, to the Israeli Home Minister Uzi Landau, and the head of Mossad on a Delhi trip, visiting with me. Intrigued by my concept, Landau promised to give it serious consideration. A year later and during the trip to Delhi by Israeli PM Ariel Sharon I asked about this proposal but it hadn’t progressed much in Israeli policy circles. Fast forward another 2 decades and there’s finally the first small move in this direction with the Indian govt now insisting that Israeli companies manufacture in India 60% of what they sell to the Indian armed forces. There’s a bit of coercion here. But one would have thought Tel Aviv would have long ago  recognized the merits of transitioning from a seller-buyer relationship to strategic co-production ere the Modi regime forced its hand.

What got the BJP govt to act was the dissatisfaction with a growingly transactional relationship — that I have pointed out in my previous posts — where the benefits were mostly one-way, with Delhi mainly forking out the funds and even in collaborative projects DRDO left with missile back end work, not the high-value stuff at the front end concerning the target seeker and propulsion tech on MRSAM and LRSAM projects, for instance. It is the sort of thing that I had warned wouldn’t last long.

It is in this context that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu touches down in Delhi with Modi at Palam to receive him. Hugs and genuine warmth between the two principals will make for a feel-good occasion and trip by the Israeli leader, whose delegation also packs movers and shakers of that country’s corporate world who have turned Israel into the “start-up nation” of lore, and who will be urged by their government to strike deals with their Indian counterparts and otherwise begin establishing Israeli presence on the Indian high-tech scene.   This is all fine.

Except, one of the basic hurdles — other than the problems mentioned above — is the reluctance of Israeli (and other foreign) techno-entrepreneurs and investors from setting up shop in India, owing to the obstacle course of laws, rules and regulations they have still to run, and which the Modi regime has not smoothed out, including the little matter of foreign investment restrictions of 49% equity holding. Without controlling interest, no foreign company will want to have to do much with India, especially if it also involves bringing in cutting-edge technologies, Netanyahu’s and Modi’s rhetoric notwithstanding.

Military R&D is capital intensive business, India is solvent, boasts of  a large market for Israeli products — but the Indian government doesn’t follow-up on commitments and promises it makes to foreign leaders. This will likely again derail whatever Modi and Netanyahu may formally decide to achieve.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Africa, arms exports, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Decision-making, Defence Industry, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian para-military forces, indian policy -- Israel, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Missiles, society, South Asia, Technology transfer, Terrorism, United States, US., Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to What’s the problem with Indo-Israeli relations?

  1. sanman says:

    Mr Karnad,
    Might there be any concern from the Israeli side about India’s arms relationship with Russia? They might be concerned that some of their tech will end up in Russian hands. Perhaps a broader pick-up in commercial ties might also provide further grounding for defense collaboration.

    • No. The first Indian defence projects Israel was involved in was to upgrade MiG-21s with advanced avionics.

      • Kya says:

        On the contrary Russia should be deeply concerned that Indians will pass on secrets to the West about S-400, etc. Russia must not give any arms to India now.

      • sanman says:

        Mr Karnad,
        What about the cancellation of the Spike deal itself? Perhaps that could be interpreted as India reverse-engineering Israeli tech and then showing them the door. I’ve read that the Spike purchase will be reinstated in a smaller quantity, while gaining technology transfer from the Israelis. There have been repeated instances when Indian Army prefers the foreign system to DRDO’s version. Perhaps there needs to be a more clearcut way of evaluating both foreign and indigenous systems side-by-side, since this issue seems to come up over and over again.

  2. Kya says:

    They – the jews- condemn themselves to repeated expulsions. Roald Dahl as fine an author as you can find (BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) pointed out the following:

    “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

    Ejected from 109 countries so far
    I do not agree with above sentiment but indians are too gullible idiots to latch on to anything as a drawning man catching a straw.

    • sanman says:

      Your remarks are uncalled for, and are needlessly pejorative. Pakistanis say the same thing about Hindus all the time, while quoting different people. You seem to be a rather simple-minded person, and should know better than that.

      • Kya says:

        Quote ” I do not agree with above sentiment but indians are too gullible idiots to latch on to anything as a drawning man catching a straw.”
        So simple minded american agent like you can not understand even that simple sentence.
        What did you not understand?
        Personally I love jews but am not keen on indian tendency to lick someones boot when the other entity is having good time.
        Today that nuttyanu is coniudered more of a villain than a normal person.
        Surprise that only vilkain cgaracters like nuttyanu and bush two are so much liked by indian coolie elite class.

  3. sir, little did anayone in India knew that it was Shaul Eisenberg who gave critical Arms Tech from US & Israel to Beijing ? http://katehon.com/article/alliance-between-china-and-zionism
    what are your thought on this Sir

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