Indo-Israeli Alliance Affects Regional Players

Tuesday 6 January 2004, by Matthew RIEMER

The State of Israel is currently seeking to bolster its national security as well as its Eurasian influence through burgeoning bilateral relations with India. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited New Delhi in early September to meet his counterpart, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee; the common foe of militant Muslim extremists and arms and technology sales were the topics of greatest interest.

Ever since its inception as a state, Israel has worked to limit the power of regional countries, both on its borders — Syria, Egypt — and further westward — Iran, Saudi Arabia — while increasing its own regional supremacy. Almost sixty years later, and armed with nuclear weapons, this task is largely complete — though the biggest security concern for Israel is technically within its own borders in the West Bank and Gaza — and now Tel Aviv has decided to further protect itself by a growing strategic alliance with India.

This is significant because of India’s relationship with its neighbor, Pakistan: the two countries are arch rivals, are both nuclear armed, and have come to the brink of using such arms on multiple occasions over the unresolved northern territory of Kashmir; India also continually charges Pakistan with training and harboring terrorists, especially as violence against Indian political and economic interests has increased in recent years. And internationally, Pakistan is considered to play a pivotal role — both perceived and actual — in the modern phenomenon of "terrorism."

Because of this, Israel’s growing interest in an alliance with India must also be equally seen as a move to intimidate Pakistan and other Central Asian countries and attempt to diminish their respective roles in aiding enemies of the Jewish state and Western interests in general. India, because of its rivalry with Pakistan, has closer relationships with many governments in Central Asia and can provide the Israeli leadership an alternative window with which to influence states that — willingly or unwillingly — play host to the organizations and religious and political groups that have become the basis for terrorist, Muslim extremist, and anti-establishment culture throughout Central and South Asia.

Sharon spokesman Raanan Gissin said: "Our contacts with India are definitely a triangular strategic relationship, in line with the U.S. stance on world terror." This comment from Sharon’s spokesman sheds further light on the Indo-Israeli alliance, which Washington may see as an avenue to indirectly strengthen New Delhi’s counterterrorist and military hardware and technology capabilities for its own agenda — something it couldn’t do itself while simultaneously maintaining intimate ties with Pakistan in the "war on terrorism." And since a friendly relationship with Islamabad is key to Washington’s long-term plans for the region, the Bush administration has been very careful about appearing to be too chummy with New Delhi. A perfect example of the importance given to the Washington-Islamabad bilateral relationship is the apparent lack of concern exhibited by the Bush administration regarding nuclear technology given to North Korea by Pakistan.

Also, as India is strengthened, shifting the balance of power in South Asia, Pakistan will become primed for when it becomes a target itself in the "war on terrorism." Recently, New Delhi refused to provide troops for U.S. efforts in Iraq because the war there was not seen as threatening Indian interests to a great enough degree. But with Pakistan, the situation is entirely different. If the U.S. can build up Indian power and influence in South Asia indirectly through its approval of Israeli arms and technology sales to India, then Washington will have a well-equipped and willing regional ally in South Asia when the "war on terrorism" expands beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. Attacks in India, like the recent bombings in Bombay, further strengthen India’s national desire to fight "terrorism," which indirectly means fighting Pakistan.

In addition to in-roads in Eurasia for Washington and Tel Aviv, such a relationship as an overt Indo-Israeli alliance aimed at strengthening India works perfectly for New Delhi as well: It provides the Indian leadership an escape route by establishing an intimate and broad relationship with a key ally of the United States and, therefore, the U.S. itself should it ever need to fully align itself with the world’s lone superpower for the sake of its own survival, whether because of some unexpected threat from China, Russia, Pakistan, or even from within. Currently, New Delhi maintains a close relationship with Tehran, and this is perhaps one of the most questionable Indian practices in the eyes of Israel and the U.S.

Needless to say, this "triangular strategic relationship" is not lost on Islamabad, which has reacted predictably to this concept with concern. Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf said, "The India-Israel nexus carries a lot of danger and we are concerned about it." He added, "We have to look into all this in the light of our national interest" and that Pakistan "would try that this nexus should not be used against Pakistan, and both India and Tel Aviv may carry on with their bilateral relations."

It should also be noted that both Israel and India posses nuclear weapons. Such a relationship between nuclear powers is bound to cause alarm in governments other than the one in Islamabad. Specifically, despite India’s relationship with Iran, such overt political posturing could further Tehran’s desire to acquire nuclear weapons and more advanced weapons’ technology to have more international political leverage in a region that it could very well become isolated within.

Matthew Riemer

This article has been published in The Power and Interest News Report.

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