- Discuss about the defense and technology cooperation along with Israel’s role in ‘make in India’.
India recently signed the ‘India-Israel Vision on Defense Cooperation’ to put forth a comprehensive 10-year roadmap identifying the new areas of collaboration. Both countries also intends to enhance cooperation on futuristic defense technologies.
Indo-Israel defense & technology ties : This focus on technological cooperation precedes the robust ties in the defense and security sector, spanning arms sales, military exchanges, and counter-terrorism engagements. Since establishing ties in 1992, they have traversed a long path. Driven by a shared threat perception of being surrounded by hostile neighbors, both countries deepened their exchanges, including extensive people-to-people contact. The Kargil war cemented this cooperation when Israel provided direct military assistance to India.
Since then India has relied on Israeli technology & equipment for border security and counter-terrorism. This has made India the largest purchaser of Israeli weapons in the last decade. India’s arms purchases have provided Israel’s defense-industrial base with steady sizeable market. UAV’s, missiles and radar systems have predominated India’s purchases from Israel costing US$ 4.2 billion (2001-2021). These have strengthened India’s surveillance & operational capabilities. E.g. : Israeli sensors, Heron drones, thermal imaging devices and night vision equipment have helped the army to check infiltration along the Line of Control.
Beyond defense trade, India-Israel have engaged in defense technology cooperation. The success symbol is the Barak-8 co-developed by IAI and DRDO. IAI is also collaborating with HAL to convert second-hand Boeing 767 civilian aircraft into mid-air refuellers for the air force. Furthering the success on Barak-8, both countries have established a bilateral sub-working group on defense industrial cooperation.
Israel as partner in Make In India : Supporting the focus on building national defense-industrial capabilities, Israeli companies have partnered with the Indian private sector. E.g., IAI, Elbit, and Rafale have set up joint ventures with Bharat Forge, Tech Mahindra, Tata Advanced systems to produce niche subsystems and homeland security systems. Also, Israeli companies have identified and utilized the niche technological solutions offered by Indian companies – E.g.: Bengaluru’s Tonbo Imaging’s specialized electro-optics has powered Israel’s precision-guided bombs for years now.
However, a big challenge for these companies is the uncertainties related to India’s protracted defense acquisition procedure. But beyond these usual challenges, there lies real opportunity for New Delhi and Tel Aviv to advance cooperation. The agreement on enhancing partnership in futuristic technologies is an effort in the right direction. To realize the true potential, identification of mutually beneficial technologies, followed by formal collaboration between Israel’s Maf’at and DRDO, along with greater engagement between respective innovation ecosystems. This will create a sustainable collaboration between the two democracies.