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India-Israel: Evolving from Hesitation to Strategic Bond.



  Oct 20, 2023

The Evolution of India-Israel Relations: From Hesitation to Strategic Partnership



Introduction

India’s stance towards Israel has undergone a remarkable transformation over the years. In this comprehensive overview, we delve into the historical evolution of India-Israel relations, focusing on their burgeoning defense partnership.
This transformation was notably influenced by various geopolitical factors, including the dissolution of the USSR, India’s need for defense supplies, the influence of the United States, intelligence sharing concerning the “Islamic bomb,” and the recognition of their shared interests, which positioned them as natural allies.

India’s Hesitation and Changing Dynamics

In 1947, India cast its vote against the United Nations resolution partitioning Palestine, reflecting Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision of a federal state with autonomy for both Jewish and Palestinian Arab communities.
This early stance delayed the recognition of Israel by India until 1950. However, it took another four decades for full diplomatic relations to materialize.

The Geopolitical Shift: USSR Dissolution and US Influence (1992)

A significant factor influencing India-Israel relations was the dissolution of the USSR in 1992. With the end of the Cold War, India lost a major defense supplier and found itself in need of new sources for military equipment. The United States, a key ally of Israel, played a crucial role in bringing India and Israel closer together. As India sought alternative defense suppliers, Israel emerged as a reliable partner.

Intelligence Sharing and Nuclear Concerns

Intelligence sharing also played a vital role in strengthening the relationship. Both nations shared concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region, particularly Pakistan’s pursuit of what was often referred to as the “Islamic bomb.” This shared interest in security and non-proliferation further cemented their partnership.

Growth in Defense Cooperation

Between 2000 and 2010, Israel transferred substantial military equipment to India, worth an estimated $10 billion. In recent years, the Modi government has further strengthened ties. In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit marked the first by an Indian head of government to Israel. The leaders emphasized collaboration in various fields, including defense and technology.

The Kargil Conflict (1999): Strengthening Ties in Times of Need

The Kargil conflict of 1999 marked a turning point in India-Israel defense relations. During this crisis, Israel provided India with critical support, including laser-guided missiles and mortar ammunition, at a time when India was facing international sanctions following its 1998 nuclear tests. Israel’s assistance was instrumental in addressing India’s defense needs during this challenging period.

India as a Major Recipient of Israeli Arms

India is a significant recipient of Israeli arms and technology. India ranks as Israel’s second-largest arms supplier after Russia.

India and Israel as Natural Allies

The trajectory of India-Israel relations highlights that they have emerged as natural allies in a region marked by complex geopolitical dynamics. They share common democratic values, a commitment to counter-terrorism, and a desire for stability in the region. This natural affinity has provided a strong foundation for their deepening partnership.

India’s Balanced Approach

Despite deepening defense ties, India has consistently supported the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, demonstrating its ability to maintain a balanced approach in the region.

Technological Collaborations and Expanding Horizons

Over the years, India and Israel have engaged in various technological collaborations. This includes satellite launches, missile systems, and communication equipment. Notably, the Spike anti-tank missiles and the Spice 2000 guidance kit were used during significant operations.

The Future of India-Israel Relations

As both nations seek to enhance self-reliance in defense, the extent of technology sharing will be a key consideration. Their strategic partnership continues to evolve, reflecting the changing dynamics of the region and the shared interests that bind them as natural allies.

Conclusion

India-Israel relations have evolved from skepticism to a strategic partnership, particularly in the realm of defense. The dissolution of the USSR, India’s need for defense supplies, the influence of the United States, shared intelligence, and their recognition as natural allies have played pivotal roles in this transformation.


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