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India in search of New Allies

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When the entire world is talking about April 13 launching of satellite by North Korea and even suggested stricter sanctions on Pyongyang, no one uttered even a single word about India’s successful test of a powerful new missile that can carry nuclear weapons to Beijing caused barely a ripple – even in China. While on the other hand, North Korea insisted its rocket launch on Sunday was merely part of a civilian space program aimed at putting an observation satellite into orbit. The U.S. and other countries called it a thin excuse to test technology for firing a long-range missile fitted with a nuclear warhead. The launch failed when the rocket broke apart soon after takeoff. The condemnation of North Korea’s launch was swift. The United States canceled a plan to send food aid and the U.N. Security Council announced it would impose new sanctions.

It is important to mention here that, India has immensely been benefitted from its decade-old relations with Israel, particularly in the defense cooperation. But, there are signs of India’s intention of switching from Israel to Iran and Russia, for future cooperation in defense sector. It is undoubtedly an issue of global concern, when a large nation like India is gradually strengthening its defense ties with a Pariah nation like Iran, and it is even feared that Iranian Mullahs may offer every possible help to India, including cooperation in the nuclear sector, where Iranian rogue regime might have hidden agenda of using India as a counter-power against United States and Israel in the near future. India’s slipping out of friendly bondage with Israel was prominently signaled when India decided, for the first time in its history, to penalize a foreign defense vendor, Israel’s Military Industries (IMI), for alleged breach of contract. This happened at the time when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s security adviser Yaacov Amidror visited New Delhi to intercede with top security and government officials. To the dismay of officials in Jerusalem, the IMI was singled out for the penalty with loud publicity from among five defense vendors – three foreign and two Indian – recommended for blacklisting in March for alleged involvement in a graft case. Its $70 million guarantee was accordingly confiscated.

In Jerusalem, it is strongly suspected that India is deliberately cooling its defense relations with Israel to fit in with its new alignment with Tehran and Moscow. All three refuse to join US and European sanctions against Iran. The IMI signed a contract with the Indian OFB-Ordinance Factory Board to build ordnance factories at Nalanda in Bihar for manufacturing bi-modular charges for the Indian Army’s 155mm howitzers. The $260 million contract contained an integrity pact covering a commitment to abstain from malpractice.

Delhi says the IMI forfeited its guarantee because it was allegedly involved in the offer of a bribe to former OFB director general Sudipto Ghosh in 2010. IMI sources pointed out that an Indian court had ruled the encashment of the guarantee improper. The firm operated within the law and intends to appeal the decision and the handling of the case before the competent authorities. The decision, they say, was based on disputed facts and ignored the documents and information refuting the charges which were presented to the Indian Defense Ministry. DEBKAfile’s military sources add that Israel’s defense leaders made every effort, including an appeal by Yaacov Amidror to Indian defense minister A.K. Antony, to get its military industries removed from the blacklist banning its operations in India for 10 years, and reinstated. It was all in vain. New Delhi’s decision to confiscate the $70 million guarantee was taken and published without letting Jerusalem know it was coming. Them Antony visited the OFB ordnance factory and approved a special operating budget for getting production at Nalanda up and running without outside help.

On March 12, the Indian Chief of Staff Gen. V.K. Singh sent a letter to Indian Prime Minister in Delhi complaining that the army’s tank fleet is short of guns and ammunition for fighting off a potential enemy (Pakistani) tank assault; 97 percent of its air defense systems are inoperative; and its special forces have neither the right arms for their operations nor ammo. The situation in the Indian infantry, engineering and signals corps is no better.

While India is gradually strengthening its defense relations with Iran and Russian both openly and secretly, the chairman of the Russian Duma’s International Affairs Committee Alexey Pushkov has warned that the deployment of the United States’ missile defence system in the Persian Gulf is a signal that a military strike on Iran could be in the making. Peshkov is an influential politician close to the Kremlin who would have access to Russian intelligence and, therefore, his statement merits attention.

Indeed, there have been previous such Russian statements at the level of the security and military establishment in Moscow. The chief of the Russian general staff Gen. Nikolay Makarov recently said that in his estimation, a US attack could take place as early as summer. “Iran is a sore spot (for the US). I think a decision will be made by the summer”.

Pushkov’s estimation is logical since the ABM system is intended to neutralie Iran’s capacity to retaliate. Pushkov also linked the decision by Germany to sell 6 Dolphin-class submarines to Israel as ominous, as it would boost Israel’s capability to stage an attack from the sea. Indeed, something is cooking. Beijing also issued its strongest-ever-warning against a military strike on Iran.

Possibly anticipating an attack by United States, Iran too is looking for its defense ally in Asia, where nuclear-power India stands as the best choice of Tehran. On the other hand, Russia, which had been a longstanding defense cooperation partner of India during the Soviet era, might look for reinstating the already forgotten relations. On the other end, India might be considering China as it only business rival in Asia, which would only become the real threat to India’s export economy, because of China’s political stability, better workforce as well as technological superiority in comparing to those of India. By testing the long-range missile, which would easily hit any of the cities in China, including Beijing, New Delhi might have flexed muscle with the motive of putting Beijing into psychological pressure. At the same time, India’s high-ambition of becoming a global super-power in future might have prompted it in slipping out from its relations with Israel considering Jerusalem’s strong relations with Washington. India already eyes both United States and China as its rival in letting it emerging as next global super-power. Indian nationals have already established a formidable grip over United States’ economy.

Accepting the reality of India’s intention of looking for new defense allies, should Israel also now start searching its new partners in Asia? For Jerusalem, strategically such relation with a number of Asian nations is surely possible.

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India in search of New Allies

By: Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury Read time: 19 min