Rebuffing the anti-Israeli brigade, the Vajpayee government has upgraded the defence collaboration plan with Israel. Tel Aviv has decided to take on India as partner for its submarine manufacturing programme. Disclosing a little of what transpired during the visit of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, top government sources asserted their preference for Israel as the new and increasingly important source of defence supplies.
The Israeli offer to upgrade India’s status from an important client of its defence equipment to a partner in its defence-production programme marks an important leap forward in the relations between the two countries. It indicates the trust Tel Aviv has reposed in India, a realisation which stems not just from their shared concerns about jehadi terrorism, but also from the economic and technological development undertaken by the two countries defying all odds.
“There is some likelihood of our being a partner in producing conventional submarines. They are in the process of producing a new submarine and they would like us to be junior partner,” these sources pointed out, adding, “The idea hasn’t crystallised as yet.”
Thankful for the strong support Tel Aviv had given New Delhi during Pakistan’s Kargil misadventure and the post-December 13 build-up, the government has chosen to ignore the Left and some Muslim lobbies and has gone right ahead with the deal.
Sources disclosed that Israel had stripped two divisions of its army to rush supplies that India requested for during the Kargil conflict. The gesture was repeated when a confrontation with Pakistan had looked imminent in the wake of the terror attack on Parliament. “They offered to give us whatever we wanted,” these sources said..
The collaboration looks even more impressive considering that the two countries did not have diplomatic ties till as recently as 1993. Though Russia remains the top source of India’s defence supplies, Israel is increasingly providing high-quality weapons such as the Phalcon early warning surveillance and control system, shipborne electronic warfare systems, the Barak missile systems and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The recent Israeli visit also saw the two countries almost finalising the proposal for the purchase of three Phalcon systems, to be mounted on as many IL-76s. “Only the cost for the deal remains to be finalised,” these sources said.
The two sides are also set to partner each other in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), both the ‘Searcher’ and ‘Heron’ varieties. “We’re at the moment working on a joint venture for the production of these surveillance platforms,” these sources said.
India’s attempt to procure the Arrow missile defence systems, however, remains stuck because of the American veto. “They believe that without American clearance, it may be difficult for them to agree to the Indian request,” the sources added.