Even as India and Israel will officially mark 25 years of diplomatic relations in 2017, it’s a little known fact that relations between the two countries go back to more than 50 years. Yes, that a diplomatic secret.
Military ties have largely hinged upon Israel meeting India’s needs in cutting-edge technology for radars, communications, sensors, UAV’s, missiles and super-secret weapons, little is known in the open domain about the last one. A high-level of intelligence–sharing has existed since 1960’s.
Just 50 years ago India and Israel had commenced a secret contact through the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and the Mossad – the secret agencies of the two countries. Relations came out in the open in 1977 when Israel Foreign Minister General Moshe Dayan arrived in India on a secret assignment to meet officials of the Morarji Desai-led Government.
B Raman an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who was Additional Secretary in the R&AW wrote a book titled ‘Kao boys of RAW’ in which he says “Shortly after RAW was formed in Sept 1968, a secret liaison relationship was established with Mossad…..some aspects (came out) in 1977 when the media got to know of the secret visit by Gen Dayan”. Both countries did not acknowledge this, till Raman wrote about in his book in the late 1990’s, but by then diplomatic relations had been officially established.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was in India on an eight day visit (Nov 14 to Nov 21), the first India-visit by the Israeli head of state in twenty years. "I believe that together we can do even more to make in India and Make with India,” he said.
Modi will be first PM to visit Israel : Prime Minister Narendra Modi could very well become the first Indian PM to visit the Jewish country, this is a big jump over the first-ever publically disclosed contact with Israel in 1985 when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi met his counterpart Shimon Peres on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting.
India-Israel cooperation increased dramatically in 2014 since the election of Modi. Between Modi's election in May 2014 and November 2014, Israel exported US $ 662 million worth of weapons to India which continues to buy some US $ 2 billion worth of equipment for the past several years.
Modi took a step further and announced that India was not shy of openly having Israel as a friend and partner. He even compared the cross-LoC surgical strikes of September 29 with similar abilities of the Israeli Army.
The India-Israel relation can be best described in phases that changed as per the then relations with the Arab world – India’s major supplier for crude oil and gas. Indira Gandhi took the first baby steps; Morarji Desai took it further; Rajiv Gandhi had the first-ever open meeting; Narsimha Rao took the strategic decision to establish official diplomatic relations; Atal Behari Vajpayee openly sourced ammunition and defence equipment from Israel during the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan; Manmohan Singh gave a major share of Indian Defence imports to Israel.
Israel overlooked sanctions, India reposed faith: Post-operation Vijay in 1999 at Kargil was the game-changer, India decided to have deeper military ties with Israel which was one of the few countries to directly help India during the conflict. It had provided laser-guided missiles used by the French origin Mirage fighter jets in the inventory of the Indian Air Force and also mortars and artillery ammunition that effectively softened the Pakistani positions atop the Himalayan heights.
Tel Aviv overlooked that India was facing sanctions following the May 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests and continued with supplies, India reposed faith in the Israeli’s and it is showing up.
Sweden-based think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in February this year released its annual assessment titled ‘Trends in international arms transfers-2015’, it says India was the world’s largest importer of weapons, Israel was India’s third largest supplier of military equipment with a 4.5 per cent share during a five –year block 2011-2015. Russia and US are the first two.The two countries have a high-powered joint working group which is co-chaired by Defence Secretary from the Indian side.
UAV’s and now killer drones: Some 15 years ago, in 2001, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) supplied to India Searcher UAV’s used in high-altitude surveillance. The deal was 100–odd ‘Searcher’ UAV’s each costing US $7.2 million.
In 2003, India signed another $130 million contract with IAI for 18 Heron-1 UAVs and ordered 16 additional ones. Now the IAF has got ‘Heron TP’, an armed drone for US $ 400 million since India has joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June.
It has a 40 hour endurance, maximum take-off weight of 5,300kg and carries a typical mission payload of 1,000kg.
AWACS the eye in the sky will keep coming: Called eye-in-the-sky, the Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) is mounted on an IL-76, Russian transport platform. Israeli Phalcon radome – a round-shaped saucer-looking radar – is mounted on top. The first plane was added to the fleet in 2009, two more followed in quick succession. In March this year the Modi-Government cleared the acquisition of two more AWACS from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) at a cost of US$1.1 billion (Rs 7,500 crore).
The AWACS can simultaneously track flying objects and monitor movements on the ground or in the sea in all-weather situation and to lock on to 60 targets simultaneously. It helps intercept signals from enemy areas, in monitoring troop build-up and to detect aerial threats. It can detect aircraft, drones and cruise missiles from a range of 400 km.
IAF’s Spice bombs: The IAF wants some 250 advanced 'Spice’ precision guided stand-off bombs capable of taking out enemy underground command centres, missile batteries, vehicles and radar stations. Spice stands from ‘Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective’ air-to-surface bomb that is immune to GPS jamming. It is ‘glide bomb’ with a 100-km range and carries a 100-kg. Surface to Air missiles. Rafael’s has produced the bomb, the IAF wants it mated with its fighters jets.
Missiles that changed the Navy: All latest additions of Indian Navy warships have been equipped with the 70-km long-range surface-to- air missiles (LRSAM’s), the Barak-8 or the Barak- NG. In Hebrew ‘Barak’ means lightening and its lives up to its name with Mach 2 speeds and capacity to identify and neutralize aerial threats from missiles, rockets, UAVs, planes, helicopters.
DRDO, Israel Aerospace Industries and Israel’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure have developed it in cooperation with Elta Systems, Rafael and other companies have chipped in while Indian Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) produces the missiles. It cost some Us 1.1 Billion to jointly develop it. It will become standard equipment on all Indian vessel.
Meanwhile Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems reached a cooperation agreement worth $10 billion with the Indian giant Reliance Defence. The companies will produce air-to-air missiles, air defence systems, and surveillance balloons or aerostats over the next ten years. Israel Government owned Rafael is to hold 49% of the joint venture. The tie-up was signed at the Defexpo India 2016 exhibition in Goa.
ATGM’s: India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has completed cost negotiations with Rafael for Spike anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) systems for the Indian Army’s 382-odd infantry battalions for an estimated US $1 billion. The Army is looking at 275 launchers and 5,500 Spike missiles. The deal also includes a technology transfer to BDL to make another 1,500 systems and around 30,000 additional missiles. These are fire-and-forget ATGMs.
Rifles and small arms: In November 2011, an Indian Commando unit bought more than 1,000 units of the Israeli X-95 assault rifle to use in counterinsurgency operation, it was not the first such buy. Israeli guns are in the race for the main rifle to replace the Insas, the Indian Army presently looking at.
Radars and sensors at border: India acquired Green Pine radars from Elta Israel around July 2002 and another one in August 2005, these are mated with air defence missiles. Now Israeli radar technology is being sought is being put in jungles of the Kashmir Valley as part of operations to stop terrorists infiltrating from Pakistan.
This has a detection system, a foliage penetrating radar equipped with high-sensitivity sensors that can track human and vehicular movement in dense foliage.India has decided to install underwater and underground sensor systems, similar to those being used by Israel to secure its borders, to check infiltration and maintain a 24x7 vigil. The sensors will come fitted with cameras which will have the ability to in low light as well.
Israel has offered to India its expertise for strengthening border fencing as India looks to set up laser walls along sensitive segments of Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan to stop infiltration.