Time to reassess Indo-Israeli defence relationship
 
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Guest Column - Force Magazine
New Beginnings

Time to reassess Indo-Israeli defence relationship
 

AVM Manmohan Bahadur (retd) AVM Manmohan Bahadur (retd)

Israel, a country with a land mass of just around 20,000 square km, evokes feelings of respect for its demonstrated ability to stand up to a hostile neighbourhood comprising four immediate neighbours and a larger grouping of nations that includes Iran, Iraq and the Arab and Gulf countries. Additionally, there are many more distant countries, like Pakistan, who have deep animosity towards the Jewish state. What adds to the aura is the leading status it has achieved in multifarious fields in cutting edge technology, agriculture, water conservation et al. With the first prime ministerial visit from India due in July this year, as also the first-ever Indian participation in an air exercise with the Israeli Air Force(IAF) around the corner, the environment is ripe for a re-assessment of Indo-Israeli relations, especially on air power and defence procurement issues. But first, a bit of history would be in order.

Israel became an independent state in 1948, a year after India, and was immediately at war with its neighbours – the nation, whose width at the minimum point was just 15 km came out victorious and gradually built up its armed forces such that the next round in 1956 saw it reaching the Suez Canal (albeit with France and UK siding with it against Egypt, post the nationalisation of the Canal). The pre-emptive strike by its air force in June 1967 heralded the six-day war, which was a textbook conduct of warfare, and is studied in war colleges throughout the world. However, the 1973 Yom Kippur war was a wake-up call and though the end, which saw Israel troops besieging the Egyptian Third Army in a pincer, was in its favour it also led to subsequent peace treaties with Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In all this period and up to the beginning of the Nineties, Indo-Israeli relations were governed by India’s public posture of support to the Arab and Palestinian cause. However, documents are slowly emerging that show that there was behind the scenes contact between the two governments on defence issues. Of real interest is the fact that arms had been sent by Israel to India in the 1962 Indo-China war as also in the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Then again in 1971, Indian Ambassador to France DN Chatterjee suggested obtaining ‘oil and arms’ from Israel, a proposal that was accepted by Indira Gandhi, resulting in their supply.

An Indian Air Force AWACS during Exercise Livewire
An Indian Air Force AWACS during Exercise Livewire

 
 
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