India’s growing ties with Israel, underscored by a rare intimacy between the top leaders of the two countries, is worrying Indian Muslims who could be targeted even more pointedly and aggressively from now on, writes P.K.Balachandran in www.southasianmonitor.com
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a rousing reception when he landed in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Stepping down from the aircraft, Modi gave his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, two hugs to signify extra close brotherhood. The entire Israeli cabinet was at the airport to receive him, an honor given only to the US President and the Pope,.
Modi’s three-day visit is historic in as much as it is the first by an Indian Prime Minister since full diplomatic relations were established in 1992. A number of deals are expected to be finalized, principally on defense cooperation (purchase of equipment), counter-terrorism, agricultural development and water management.
However, while India needs Israeli weaponry and expertise in the face of the ever present threat from Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, and a looming threat from China over a revived border dispute, there is a danger of Indians being influenced by Israeli thinking on the Muslim minority.
The 168 million Muslims in India are already under heavy stress because of the unofficial license given to Hindutva storm troopers to lynch them for eating beef or allegedly transporting “holy” cows for slaughter. Muslims are also suspected to be the ISIS or Pakistan.
If the Indian state acquires the intelligence apparatus and counter-terrorism techniques of the Israelis, the already marginalized, oppressed and demoralized Muslim minority will feel further alienated. The young, who are now timid and peace loving, may take to arms as Mariyam Khatun, the widow of lynched Alimuddin of Chattisgarh, earlier this week. Alimuddin, who was coal trader, was mistaken for a cattle trader, and lynched.
With the Non-Aligned movement becoming moribund in the 1990s, India shed the fig leaf of being “non-aligned”, distanced itself from the Palestinian cause, and warmed up to Israel. India also stopped depending upon Soviet/Russian supplies for its military, and started looking to the West for equipment.
Meanwhile, Israel had become a major arms manufacturer in the world, and India a major buyer of arms. India was the second biggest arms buyer in the world between 2008 and 2014, notching up purchases totaling US$ 34 billion, second only to Saudi Arabia.
Israeli arms sales to India now totals US$ 9 billion and is set to grow exponentially. According to the Israeli media, the two countries have been going into defense deals worth US$ 1 billion each year.
It is reported that the government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) had said that India would buy nearly US $2 billion worth of weapons technology, making it Israel’s largest defense contract till date. The deal will see IAI provide India with an advanced defense system of medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology. IAI later announced a deal worth US $ 630m to provide India’s navy with missile defense systems. The Israeli long-range surface-to-air missiles, including Barak 8, will be useful to shoot down anti-ship missiles at ranges up to 70 km.
Israel’s defense deals have included components that will be assembled in India. There are also deals for joint development of weapon systems.
Technology and Skills Matching
Israel is a manufacturer of weapon “sub-systems” and not whole systems. This poses problems for buyers who use weapon systems of other countries. Israeli parts do not always fit weapons systems made in other countries. In India’s case, marrying Israeli parts with Soviet weaponry is a major challenge.
Abhijit Iyer Mitra, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, has said in a recent paper, that India has no demonstrated expertise in such integration.
“India does not have institutions that teach systems integration. Adding to this – Israeli weapons thrive in the small to medium sector ecosystem due to a highly volatile market and constantly changing threats and the consequent need to innovate rapidly. But India’s defense SMEs are virtually non-existent and where they exist, they are neither empowered, nor are they earmarked for technology research and development. Israel also does not share source-codes for any product that has to be integrated with Russian systems for security reasons,” Mitra pointed out.
Giving an example, he said: “The naval MF-STAR radar and long range Barak missile which India paid for, and was meant to co-develop, are manufactured wholly in Israel, India having failed miserably in its development share.”
“Even where technology has been transferred as in the case of gallium arsenide chips for radars, Indian AWACS radars have shown abysmal performance since India’s atrocious engineering talent pool cannot develop the matching signal processing algorithms.”
Also, mixing and matching does not produce better products, it can frequently destroy a good product “as has been the case with the Sukhoi 30,” Mitra added.
Where Israel can contribute meaningfully is technological development and training. India’ training institutes turn out non-innovative and relatively unskilled graduates who cannot meet present day demands for skills and innovativeness.
Education and skill development have been part of Indo-Israeli deals but these have to be put in the forefront and not be relegated to the back burner as in the past.
(The featured image at the top shows India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi giving his trademark hug to Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu)