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India acquiring Israeli arms...

Recent media reports suggest that India has tied up a deal with Israel for the supply of the ground based Green Pine ABM radar and also perhaps the Phalcon airborne early warning system, says a report in the Strategic Affairs magazine.

The deal is worth more than $2.5 bn but there's been no confirmation from either India or Israel largely because the former is wary of talking about a relationship which is bound to annoy traditional friends in the Arab world.

There are suggestions that the Green Pine radar may have already entered service in India. A report in the Israeli daily Haaretz on March 20 this year said that India had been supplied "parts of the sophisticated radar system Green Pine" capable of detecting ballistic missile attacks from hundreds of kilometres away. The supply of the system was cleared by the Israelis and the cargo ship carrying the system left Israeli shores even before President Bush took office".

There had been fears that the US could veto the sale of the radar to India (as India is on its list of states of concern) in the same manner it stopped the sale of the Phalcon AWACs to China. The daily however reported that Israel had "notified" the US of the sale implying that perhaps neither outgoing President Clinton nor Bush raised any objections.

The Green Pine although funded by the US was developed independently by Elta for the Arrow anti-missile system after the failure of the American Patriot, while the Phalcon was developed in collaboration with the US. Presumably, the Green Pine does not have any US components in it although this is not clear.

The Israeli Foreign Minister, Mr David Levy, without referring to the Green Pine said the Israelis were under no pressure from the US on sale of military equipment to India as both India and Israel are strong democracies. For technology strapped India the Green Pine system is crucial to its integrated missile development program.

Contrary to what is widely believed, the links between the Indian and Israeli military establishments are not exactly of recent vintage. In fact, they go back to the supply of intelligence equipment beginning with India's 1962 war against China and continued thereafter. The pace of ties began to pick up as India sought to diversify its sources of arms acquisitions away from Russia and eastern Europe.

According to defence writer Maj. Gen Ashok Mehta (Retd): "The three services have nearly 70 to 80 per cent of their military hardware sourced to former USSR and therefore, hostage to Russia and Eastern Block countries for spares and essential supplies. It is in this context that Israel is emerging as the leading source of critical military technology and hardware for India. Israel is the finest blender of East Block and Western technology and can upgrade a Russian MIG or a Ukranian tank more reliably than the producing countries."

Military equipment apart, India may have provided "space" to territorially constricted Israel to test various weapons systems. According to London's Sunday Times quoting Haaretz, an Israeli Navy Dolphin submarine came up to Balasore on India's eastern seaboard to test fire an anti-missile missile. Israel's Dolphin submarines which are based in the port of Haifa, are believed to be armed with nuclear missiles.

The "Dolphin affair" took place as India negotiated the acquisition of the Barak missile from Israel. The Barak is being installed on board the Delhi class destroyers following delays in the development of a similar home-grown system.

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