Spearhead Opinion – 24.07.2017
By Shirin Naseer
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research
For long, India has corroborated the Palestinian cause and kept distance from Israel in order to protect its interests in the Arab world. New Delhi has maintained a degree of ambiguity when it comes to publicly acknowledging the India-Israel relationship. In this context, the July 4 meeting between PM Modi and the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was bound to attract international buzz.
India signed extensive arms deals with Israel, including deals formalizing: the purchase of 8,000 Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and the purchase of the Barak 8 air defense systems from Israel Aerospace Industries, for use on land and water.
India and Israel also focused their efforts on border security. Israel sold India motion detectors and other monitoring equipment to track infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan in the Jammu and Kashmir region. Israel also sold unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to India for high-altitude surveillance and offered to provide anti-insurgency training for Indian forces in the area.
Later this year, Israel will be hosting its largest-ever aerial exercise in Ovda — known as “Blue Flag”. For the first time, Indian pilots will train in Israel as part of Blue Flag. If all goes as planned, India will buy about $2 billion worth of Israeli missiles and air defense systems, making 2017 the record year for Israel’s arms sales to India.
An Indian Express report was quoted saying, “There is a lot to learn from Israel when it comes to water management. This is a country, which was water-deficit and is now water-surplus. It sells water to Jordan.”
Given the dismal situation of depleting water resources in India and predictions of reduced rainfall in the future, water cooperation between the two nations was also a critical area for engagement.
Israel has established 26 agricultural expertise centers in India focused on providing technical know-how on seeds and best farming practices to enable growers in the region improve their yields and in the process increase incomes. The two countries are also expected to explore Israel’s expertise in water management solutions, including desalination of sea water to generate fresh water.
The visit was hailed a resounding success for India—not just for the way PM Modi set foot in Israel but also for what preceded it. Only a day before PM Modi arrived in Israel the Israeli foreign ministry restated its cooperation in the fight against terrorism andreiterated that Israel continues to see all terrorists as alike—the repercussions of which were not lost on Pakistan. Pakistan’s alleged support for militants in India-administered Kashmir is cited as one of the main causes for the current chill in Indo-Pak relations. As some readers may recall, a day before PM Modi’s visit to the US, the US State Department sanctioned Hizbul Mujahideen and United Jihad Council leader, Syed Salahuddin as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist”.
Israeli tech prowess and close links to the US make it a valued partner for India. As of now, the US, India and Israel stand united in their stance against militancy in Kashmir.
Certainly for Pakistan the current state of affairs have taken a turn for the worst; India, Pakistan’s most hostile neighbor has successfully signed arms agreements with a state Pakistan refuses to recognize, and in not getting tied to any ideological prism India has managed to strike, what for Pakistan is an impossible balance between: its defense deals with Saudi Arabia and Israel, and its economic interests with Iran—without damaging relations with either.
Previously Prime Minister Modi visited the UAE, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran– each visit being a stand-alone visit, with no ‘balancing acts’ following after.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts remain forever restricted and limited under an Islamic foreign policy outlook– completely out of touch with emerging strategic alliances.
Pakistan is presently spearheading a Saudi-led Islamic military coalition at the hands of such a foreign policy pivot, despite the damage its decision knowingly has caused to its relations with Iran. Post this governmental decision Iran not only reconsidered its economic relationship with Pakistan but also went as far as to threaten military attacks on Pakistani soil.
Basing foreign policy on Pan-Islamist diplomacy is not only making it difficult to engage with the world today but is also highly damaging for Pakistan’s international image and security. Perhaps it is time to reconsider traditional foreign policy practice and the future trajectory of existing bilateral relationships.
If Pakistan is able to alter its foreign policy outlook and resist treating religion as a foreign policy determinant, it could not only keep Pakistan’s adversaries from capitalizing on the gaps in Pakistan’s own exclusivist foreign policy, but also it could in the long-run strengthen Pakistan’s claim for Kashmir’s autonomy.
With a broader foreign policy and regional security policy outlook, Pakistan would finally be able to shun accusations of harboring jihadists within its territory.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor may also be able to work to its potential if a more flexible foreign policy approach allows for a greater number of countries to participate in the multimillion dollar project. Pakistan through CPEC has been offered a way towards independent financial sustenance. China has frequently asked Pakistan to rid its state of radical Islamism in order for CPEC to fully progress.
It is important to consider a re-evaluation of foreign policy on these grounds. Otherwise, the limits in Pakistan’s foreign policy outlook would continue to forestall its own development, both domestically and globally.