M.L. Sondhi

The Pioneer, August 23, 2003

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has developed a coherent strategy for Israel-India ties which an approving New Delhi acknowledges as “constructive and problem-solving”.  Mr. Sharon appreciates the fact his Indian counterpart, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, ha adopted an even-handed approach to working towards a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  The Sharon doctrine views Indians and Israelis as strategic partners contributing to the stability, democracy and economic and technological development of the region to which both belong.  Mr. Sharon and Mr. Vajpayee are committed to maintaining the military edge of their nations through defence cooperation.  Mr. Sharon also believes India has a future in keeping the momentum towards a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

A second dimension of the Sharon doctrine is that Indians and Israelis (including their diasporas) should establish a unique partnership for high-technology production.  Third, that both have enough diplomatic clout to resist pressure from quarters that want appeasement and defeatism instead of resolute opposition to repressive, tyrannical and terrorist forces.  The political, strategic and intellectual effort to develop a joint Indo-Israeli counter-terrorism front has had a promising start.

The Sharon doctrine’s fourth aspect is that India and Israel should not only cooperate in gaining military victory, but that they use their “civilisational resources” for public diplomacy, so that they are oriented towards more distant horizons in the 21st century.  It is in the area of long-range and coherent thinking that both Prime Ministers are mindful of the importance of Jewish and Indian intellectual traditions.  The thoughts of Spinoza, Sri Aurobindo and Tagore can inspire both countries to work together to protect freedom in the 21st century.  Both Jews and Indians are equipped by their heritage to focus on the central moral issues raised by technological change.

To date, most contacts have centred on the supply of Israeli equipment to India, or Israeli upgrading of Indian equipment.  There is room for exploring more far-reaching enterprises.  A preliminary prima facie delineation of areas amenable to mutual beneficial cooperation includes development of means to enhance power projection – particularly in terms of air and naval forces;  ballistic missile defence systems (BMD) including exploration of boost phase intercept (BPI) technologies; cooperation in contending with nuclear, chemical and biological threats from non-state actors: and development of effective second strike capabilities (particularly sea and submarine-borne), essential for any credible no-first use nuclear policy.

On the practical level, recognition of the convergence of Indo-Israeli interest with the US’s should lead to greater American leniency in interpreting restrictions on technology transfers to India.

Involving US companies in Indo-Israeli ventures may make Washington more forthcoming in its attitude.  The notion of American participation in defence-related spheres raises the question of whether it may not be broadened to include other fields.  As a catalyst for promotion of such trilateral enterprises, the highly successful bilateral US-Israel funds for industrial and agricultural research and development (BIRD and BARD) may be useful models to emulate.  These business-to-business funds have proven their effectiveness, clearly justifying the initial finance allocated to them.

BIRD established in 1979 with a budget of $ 75 million from each participant, has generated business worth $ 2 billion I the US itself.  Tax revenues alone on this volume of business have easily repaid the initial allocation.  Likewise, BARD has generated about 600 projects.  There is little to suggest that expanding the scope of similar funds to include India would not yield even more impressive results.

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