Saturday, April 28, 2007
India in secret arms overture
INDIA is set to expand its military ties with Israel following a secret visit to the Jewish state by the chief of India's 1.2 million-strong army.
General JJ Singh is believed to be in Israel discussing training for elite special forces, joint military exercises and anti-terrorism and infiltration strategies - all issues that go to the heart of India's current security problems with its Islamic neighbours, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Until now, Indian leaders - despite Israel's emergence as the second-biggest arms supplier to the country after Russia - have been wary of openly building ties with Israel for fear of inciting unrest among the country's 150million Muslims and the displeasure of leftist groups within the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition.

Both the Defence Minister AKAntony and his predecessor, Pranab Mukherjee, who is now Foreign Minister, have been on the verge of buying airline tickets to Israel, only to change their minds.

Not so the no-nonsense, tough-talking General Singh, even though, unusually, no official announcement has been made of the visit.

All indications last night were that, as a key figure in the New Delhi power establishment, he is working to build the relationship, even in the face of accusations from al-Qa'ida that India is part of the global "Zionist conspiracy".

After years of fierce, anti-Israel rhetoric by successive Indian socialist governments, India's armed forces are now hugely reliant on military supplies from Israel, preferring them to the clapped-out equipment historically bought from Russia.

India now buys more than $10billion worth of military equipment each year, and as one commentator noted yesterday: "The Israeli imprint is now visible in almost all spheres of the Indian defence forces."

But General Singh's clandestine trip to Israel signals that India is now moving well beyond buying military hardware and is extending co-operation into key areas such as military training.

Israel is seen to be dealing successfully with many of the problems that India is now experiencing with terrorism - cross-border infiltration from neighbouring Pakistan into Kashmir, and into the northeast of the country by separatist groups based in Bangladesh.

According to reports in New Delhi last night, General Singh is likely to set up a scheme for joint operations between special forces of the two countries fighting terrorism.

He will also seek Israeli help with surveillance to stop cross-border infiltration, especially along the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir.,00.html
Posted by Gurpreet at 8:03 AM |


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