following the recent tensions between Pakistan and India in the wake of Pulwama incident, it is believed that Indian Air Force’s planes used Israel-supplied Spice 2000 smart missiles to bomb areas near Balakot in Pakistan. Though the bombing did not cause any major damage, except to trees, the incident underscores the importance for Pakistan of the Indo-Israel nexus, especially the military and security collaboration between the two countries. Indeed, the availability and use of these high tech Israeli weapons was just the tip of the iceberg of Indo-Israel collusion which poses a grave threat to Pakistan’s security. It is, therefore, vitally important for Pakistan to evaluate the strategic partnership between India and Israel.
Evolution of Indo-Israel Relations
Indian Prime Minister Nehru’s commitment to “secularism” and support for Arab countries is claimed to have guided his decision to oppose the partition of Palestine in 1947 and India’s subsequent vote against Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949. However, it is noteworthy that the early advocates of Hindu chauvinism and fascism, and the mentors of the likes of BJP leader Modi today, RSS leader Golwalkar and Hindu Mahasabha ideologue Savarkar, not only supported the creation of Israel but fully endorsed Zionism in its racist suppression of the Muslim Palestinians. These views have now resonated under the Hindutva campaign unleashed by Modi and provides a strong basis for India’s relations with Israel under Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Zionist allies.
Despite Nehru’s initial opposition, he recognized Israel in 1950 and allowed opening of an Israeli Consulate in Bombay in 1953. Even as India continued to support the Palestinian cause and pursued its non-aligned policy with Egypt’s President Nasser, and other “secular” Arab leaders, it was open to Israeli military assistance during the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and the Pakistan-India wars of 1965 and 1971.
The collapse of India’s strategic ally, the Soviet Union, in 1990, and the emergence of the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower enforced a major shift in Indian policy towards Israel. Faced with the need to mend fences with the U.S., India realized that this objective could be greatly facilitated by promoting relations with Israel, given the power and influence of the Israeli lobby in the U.S. Consequently, in January 1992, full diplomatic relations were established with Israel with opening of their embassies in each other’s capitals. Since then Indo-Israeli relations have grown rapidly in the political, economic, security and military spheres. High level bilateral exchanges to promote their relations have included the first visit of Israeli President, Ezer Weizman in 1997, followed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003 and Netanyahu in 2018. In 2000, BJP Home Minister L.K. Advani and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh visited Israel and Prime Minister Modi visited in July 2017.
Equally as important as the bilateral relationship between the two countries has been the increasing collaboration between the Indian and Israeli lobbies in the U.S. The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has, at Israel’s behest, greatly facilitated support for India in the American government, media, financial institutions, universities and think tanks, all of which are under the heavy influence of the powerful Jewish lobby. This has greatly helped India to promote its interests in the U.S., especially against Pakistan.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. and its subsequent “Global War on Terror”, both India and Israel have aligned their respective repression of the Kashmiri and Palestinian freedom struggles as “terrorism” to ensure American and Western support.
Indo-Israel Strategic Convergence
Since their birth, both India and Israel have followed separate but similar trajectories which have eventually led to their strategic convergence. It is this nexus that binds them increasingly in the contemporary world.
Both have illegally occupied territories by force and in defiance of international law and UN resolutions. Both have subjugated and repressed the peoples under their occupation – the Palestinians and the Kashmiris in either case. They both seek to enforce their hegemony in their respective regions. They have also amassed huge military forces and acquired nuclear weapons. They have followed similar policies of rejecting any compromise through dialogue to resolve disputes with their neighbours. As a result, both are rogue states that masquerade as democracies, while their minorities are increasingly being subjected to discrimination and abuse. Since the minorities in each case are mainly Muslims, both countries have a shared interest in demonizing Muslims as “terrorists”, especially those that have revolted against the occupation of their lands. After U.S.’ “War on Terror” following the 9/11 attacks, India and Israel have been given a virtual carte blanche by their American ally to violate the human rights of the Palestinians and the Kashmiris alike without question so long as their reign of terror can be justified as being waged against “Islamist jihadi terrorists”. Going a step further, India and Israel have followed similar policies to bring about demographic changes so that Muslim Kashmiris and Palestinians eventually become minorities in their own lands.
For all these reasons, Pakistan must remain wary of the growing Indo-Israel nexus backed up by the U.S. This strategic partnership has a direct bearing on Pakistan’s security.
Indo-Israel Military and Security Cooperation
While Indo-Israel relations cover a broad spectrum, including cooperation in economic, trade, energy and agricultural sectors, the critical areas of their strategic convergence are military and security cooperation. Since both countries are in illegal occupation of territories by force, such as Kashmir by India and Palestinian and Arab lands by Israel, they have a shared interest in strengthening their military and security ties. Following America’s pursuit of the “war on terror” and in the emerging rivalry between U.S. and China, in which India is a strategic partner of the U.S. to contain China, Washington has fully supported and encouraged the Indo-Israel nexus. As such there exists an axis of military and security cooperation between these three countries – which greatly assists India in its aggressive posture towards Pakistan.
In the military domain, India is the largest consumer of Israeli weaponry and military technologies, and Israel is India’s second largest supplier of arms after Russia. Till 2016, Indian imports of Israeli weapons amounted to 600 million dollars but in 2017 there was an even greater jump with India signing an agreement to buy Israeli weapons worth 2 billion dollars. This agreement with the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is for acquiring air and missile defence systems. Other Indian procurements include Searcher UAVs, upgrades for Russian MiG-21, laser-guided bombs, Barak-1 and 8 SAM missiles, Phalcon AWACs, latest technology drones, Hermes 450 missiles and Spike anti-tank missiles among other weapons, some of which are being jointly produced.
There are acquisitions that are known as they are in the public domain but there are other more advanced weapons systems which have been kept secret so far. These include Indo-Israel cooperation in cyberwarfare, robotics and Artificial Intelligence weapons. In this context it is worth mentioning Israeli development with the U.S. of the Stuxnet computer virus that was used against Iran. Since then more advanced cyber weapons have been under Israeli development and possibly shared with India.
Significantly, India also helped Israel by launching the Israeli TecSAR military/intelligence gathering satellite in 2008, a facility that would also provide intelligence to India.
In the intelligence/security sphere, Israelis have played a major role by sending advisors and trainers for so-called counter-terrorism operations, especially to assist Indian efforts to suppress the Kashmir uprising. As far back as the 1990s, when the Kashmiri struggle started, hundreds of Israelis were sent to Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) to train and advise Indian forces.
India has also followed Israeli tactics in its confrontation with Pakistan over Kashmir such as the so-called surgical strikes in 2016 and now after the Pulwama incident by using its air force to bomb alleged “terrorist camps”. But as the Indians have discovered, there is a vast difference between Israeli raids on Hamas and Hizbullah targets that lack the capability to retaliate and Indian attacks on Pakistan, which can and did retaliate. Even so, India continues to follow the Israeli playbook and the cooperation between the two countries in this area remains a threat to Pakistan.
In the intelligence domain, India’s RAW has also maintained close cooperation with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. In particular, RAW has followed Mossad’s example of promoting terrorist attacks and assassinations through its spies and agents, especially within Pakistan through the TTP, Baloch separatists and elements of the MQM. It would not be surprising if Mossad and RAW are jointly working to destabilize Pakistan.
Indo-Israel Nexus and Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme
For some time now there has been a great deal of international focus on the Israeli and U.S. opposition to the Iranian nuclear programme. What is almost forgotten is the clandestine Indo-Israel cooperation to subvert and destroy Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. When Pakistan was forced to pursue its nuclear weapons programme after the Indian nuclear test of 1974, it not only came under U.S. sanctions but also faced threats of Indo-Israel subversion and attacks. Since the U.S. also needed Pakistan for the war against Soviets in Afghanistan, Washington prevailed upon New Delhi and Tel Aviv to not undertake such operations. Pakistan’s own threat of retaliation also instilled caution in India and Israel. Nevertheless, this Indo-Israel collaboration requires to be recalled.
In 1979, India shared a secret U.S. memo acquired by RAW with Israel according to which Pakistan was within 2 to 3 years of acquiring a bomb. The shocked Israelis began planning a pre-emptive strike on Kahuta but the plan was shelved due to American pressure. Israel also activated Mossad agents since late 1981 to target European suppliers of nuclear equipment for Pakistan. Mossad sent letter bombs to Eduard German in Berne, Switzerland, and another to Heinz Mebus in Erlangen in Germany. They then bombed a German company in Markdorf and later targeted Albrecht Migule in Freiburg, also in Germany.
The Indians also developed their own plans to bomb KRL. In February 1983, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh, Chief of Air Staff, to be incharge of the operation, which was developed in consultation with Israel, which had in June 1981, destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor. The plan was to use Jaguar aircraft to conduct precise low level flying to bomb KRL. However, Pakistan, sensing that such an operation was underway, warned the Indians of responding by bombing their nuclear research facilities in Trombay close to Bombay (now Mumbai). Though the Indians backed down, Israel still wanted to go ahead with the operation, using Israeli air force planes from India’s Jamnagar air force base. Prime Minister Gandhi gave the go ahead for the Israeli raid but, ironically, it was the CIA that tipped off Pakistan and eventually the plan was shelved.
Again, in May 1998, when Indian nuclear tests were about to be equalized by Pakistan’s own tests, there were intelligence reports that the Indians and Israelis were going to undertake air strikes on Pakistan’s nuclear installations. This time as well the threat of a Pakistani response conveyed through the Americans diffused the situation, with Israel claiming that it had no intention of attacking Pakistan’s facilities.
In all such plans the Israeli motivation was and remains the concern that Pakistan’s so-called “Islamic bomb” could be used to threaten Israel directly by Pakistan or given to Pakistan’s Arab/Muslim friends. These concerns have existed even though Pakistan has repeatedly stated that its nuclear capability is only for its own deterrence against India.
After 9/11, India and Israel, along with the U.S., were on the forefront of promoting the canard that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists or extremist “insiders”, which they alleged could threaten the security of all these countries. These allegations still continue to be made and frequently there are reports of American contingency plans to neutralize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. No doubt, India and Israel would fully support such contingency plans. It is only due to Pakistan’s robust safety and security measures as well as the threat of retaliation that has prevented such an eventuality.
It is indeed a travesty that despite the growing Indo-Israel nexus that threatens not just Pakistan’s security but also that of Israel’s Arab neighbours, the UAE invited India’s Minister of External Affairs as a special guest to address the recently held meeting of the OIC Foreign Ministers. Moreover, this happened at a time of Pakistan-India hostilities. It is also a fact that some of our Arab friends secretly maintain relations with Israel while claiming to support the Palestinians.
Even so, Pakistan need not compromise on its principled position of supporting the right of self-determination of both the Palestinian and Kashmiri peoples. We are fortunate that we have the capability to protect our security interests as well as our principled position despite the Indo-Israel nexus backed up by the U.S. Our focus needs to be on ensuring that we continue to have the capability to defend our interests. We also need to further strengthen our relations with our reliable friends, like China, to protect our security.
The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan.
E-mail: [email protected]
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