Forging ties with Israel

With the change in government, change in the security environment, change in the threat perceptions, a change in India’s foreign policy postulates was inevitable. The Prime Minister’s visit to Israel – the first by any Indian prime minister – is more than symbolic of all these changes. During the heyday of Congress rule when Indo-Soviet friendship had touched its zenith, the Soviet Union became India’s largest arms supplier. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States gradually came to take that place. Now Israel is about to take that place, surpassing the US. India has signed or is about sign defence contracts with Israel amounting to nearly $2 billion or Rs. 13,000 crore. The buying list includes Spike anti-tank missiles, armed drones and Barak missile systems which will be installed in four Indian navy ships.
Importing arms and ammunition is, however, not the policy of the Modi government. The emphasis is on ‘Make in India’ which means transfer of technology and manufacturing defence materials indigenously, if necessary in collaboration with the foreign manufacturers. With the threat perception from Pakistan and China heightening, it is all the more necessary to attain as much self-sufficiency in arms production and in as short a time as possible. It baffles understanding why, in spite of having so many ordnance factories, India has to import even bullets for the AK series of rifles. With more and more Chinese naval ships and submarines prowling in the Indian Ocean, India has to increase its fleet strength and surveillance capacity. In the past one month the military threat from China has grown alarmingly.
But the mandarins in the South Block will have to carefully assess the impact of our growing relations with Israel on the Arab world which supplies the bulk of India’s crude requirement. Also, maintaining good relations with the Arab countries is necessary for India in view of Pakistan’s all out efforts at internationalizing the Kashmir issue. India has stood by the Arab world all through. Even when the US imposed an economic sanction on Iran and made it virtually impossible for India to import crude from Iran, New Delhi had tried to help Iran as much as possible. The friendship of the Arab world is an asset for India that needs to be zealously guarded and promoted.  Making new friends must not be at the cost of old friends who have stood by us through ups and downs.

Friday, 7 July, 2017