II. Mutual Security Concerns, Indian Airforce
II. Mutual Security Concerns


A strategic partnership presupposes a broad understanding of mutual security concerns. At present, any Indo-Israeli security cooperation is unlikely to revolve around a common (stated or implicit) enemy. India is unlikely to share Israeli concerns over Iranian and Islamic radicalism nor Israel of India's concerns over China. Due to traditional political relations, geographic proximity, dependency upon petroleum resources and labor migration to the Middle East, India is unlikely to abandon its close ties with the Arab world. Indian Muslims have been sympathetic towards the Islamic countries and their perceived opposition significantly contributed to the prolonged absence of political relations between India and Israel. However, the violence in Kashmir during the past few years and the series of bomb blasts in Bombay following the demolition of the historic mosque at Ayodhya in December 1992 do indicate that India is not immune to Islamic radicalism. This is a sensitive and delicate political issue which India will have to handle without dragging Israel into the picture.

Nevertheless, at least in the foreseeable future, Islamic fundamental- ism, a most prominent agenda in the security debate in Israel, is unlikely to be shared by India in the dialogue between the two countries, since, for domestic as well as regional considerations, India intends to continue consolidating its political and economic cooperation with Iran. In recent years it has seen Iran as a principal ally in countering the anti-India campaign by Pakistan in the Islamic world and looks to Iran as a major transit route in economic relations with Central Asian republics.

For its part, Israel is unlikely to abandon its two-decade old military ties with China to lessen Indian concerns. While Israel has expressed its concerns over India's suspected nuclear cooperation with Iran, there are no indications to suggest that India has raised the Chinese issue during bilateral discussions. This silence should not be taken as a sign of India's acquiescence or endorsement. Israel's involvement and participation in projects such as China's F-10 fighter are bound to undermine India's long-term security interests and it is extremely likely that the belated posting of a military attache is partly aimed at monitoring Israel's arms deals with China. Furthermore, Israeli relations with Pakistan are likely to include a military dimension. While not objecting to or even endorsing political relations between the two, India is bound to view any security-related dealings between Israel and Pakistan with apprehension.

Absence of a clearly definable enemy should enable both parties to concentrate on the need to decrease and eventually eliminate their external security dependency. Their respective dependence on Russia and the US for weapons, technology and financial assistance substantially undermines their political and diplomatic maneuverability, while even commercial decisions, such as the purchase of civilian aircraft, are subjected to political pressures. India's MiG-21 upgrading contract with Russia was partly influenced by political considerations and was linked to future support and supplies. While technology is an impediment for India, a limited domestic market is a major hurdle for Israel. While the prevailing economic condition would prevent the complete technological independence of either country, a well thought out and executed cooperation would significantly reduce their defense-related dependency upon Russia and the US respectively.

Both countries share an identical view of the non-proliferation regimes such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Though couched in principles, India's primary objection to NPT revolves around regional security considerations similar to those articulated by Israel. Both aspire to be treated as 'haves' in the struggle against nuclear and missile proliferation. Israel still retains its status as a threshold nuclear power, while India, by conducting nuclear tests in May 1998, has abandoned its long-held nuclear ambiguity. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, some of both countries' strategic programs have come under greater American scrutiny, and as a common stand is likely to put them in confrontation with Washington, neither side would be eager to place proliferation as an immediate agenda.