By Jimmy Johnson 19 August, 2010
The 2010 summer in the disputed area of Jammu and Kashmir, administered by India, has been marked by popular protests by Kashmiris and crackdowns by India’s military. The stream of violence has left more than fifty dead, mostly young protestors. The situation in Kashmir has some parallels with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, even borrowing the term intifada to describe the uprising. But the connection is more than analogy — Israel’s pacification efforts against Palestinians have proven valuable for the Indian police, army and intelligence services in their campaigns to pacify Jammu and Kashmir with numerous Indian military and security imports from Israel leading the way.
India and Israel had a limited relationship prior to 1992. India, as a prominent member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), had helped to form the NAM political positions on Palestine as part of the “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, racism, including Zionism and all forms of expansionism, foreign occupation and domination and hegemony” (1979, Havana Declaration). Beyond its anti-colonial and Third World solidarity politics, India also had realpolitik reasons for keeping a distance from Israel. The nation had a developing economy with a huge need for petroleum resources, of which it had no domestic source. Good relations with the Arab League and the Soviet Union helped to secure access to resources necessary for India to become the regional and global economic power it aspires to be.
With the beginning of the Oslo negotiations process between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s and the end of the Cold War, India was free to pursue relations with Israel from a NAM standpoint. An end to the Israeli occupation was assumed a formality under Oslo by most international observers, especially early on — and had, by that time, gained the economic strength to pursue a policy taking it, as described in a US Army War College (USAWC) analysis, “from a position of nonalignment and noncommitment to having specific strategic interests taking it on a path of ‘poly-alignment.'” The report states that India has been in a “scramble to establish ‘strategic relationships’ with most of the major powers and many of the middle powers,” including Israel.
Israel rendered limited military assistance to India in its 1962 war with China and the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. It was not until after the Oslo process began though, that the limited military contacts developed into a fuller strategic relationship. According to The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, in 1994 “India requested equipment to guard the de facto Indo-Pakistan Kashmiri border. New Delhi was interested in Israeli fences, which use electronic sensors to track human movements” (Thomas Withington, “Israel and India partner up,” January/February 2001, pp.18-19). The remaining years of the decade were peppered with arms sales from Jerusalem to New Delhi, most notably unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and electronic warfare systems.
The strategic military relationship picked up even more steam in the new millennium and annual arms sales average in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The shift of Israel being a major defense supplier to a strategic partner was formalized in a September 2003 state visit by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to India where the Hindu nationalist government then in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party led by then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, hosted the Israeli delegation and coauthored the Delhi Statement on Friendship and Cooperation between India and Israel. The statement’s longest segment is on terrorism. It declares that “Israel and India are partners in the battle against this scourge” and that “there cannot be any compromise in the war against terrorism.” The relationship has expanded drastically since 2000 with, in some recent years, Israel even supplanting Russia as India’s largest arms supplier. Surface-to-air missile systems, naval craft, advanced radar systems and other remote sensing technologies, artillery systems and numerous joint production initiatives ranging from munitions to avionics systems have all further boosted the relationship.
But as the Kashmiri uprising enters its third decade, the most telling part of the relationship is the export of Israeli pacification efforts against Palestinians to India, and their use in Jammu and Kashmir (and elsewhere as India faces multiple popular revolts). Israel has trained thousands of Indian military personnel in counterinsurgency since 2003. According to a 2003 JINSA analysis, “Presumably to equip these soldiers, India recently concluded a $30 million agreement with Israel Military Industries (IMI) for 3,400 Tavor assault rifles, 200 Galil sniper rifles, as well as night vision and laser range finding and targeting equipment.”
In 2004, the Israeli intelligence agencies Mossad and General Security Services (Shin Bet) arrived in India “to conduct the first field security surveillance course for Indian Army Intelligence Corps sleuths.” The Globes article on the topic cites an Indian source stating “The course has been designed to look at methods of intelligence gathering in insurgency affected areas, in keeping with the challenges that Israel has faced.” The further acquisition of UAVs, their joint production and the acquisition of other surveillance systems, notably 2010 agreements for both spy satellites and satellite communications systems, have all helped to further India’s pacification campaigns in Jammu and Kashmir. A notable example of how deeply embedded in India the Israeli counterinsurgency and homeland security industries are is the May 2010 agreement whereby Ra’anana-based Nice Systems will provide security systems and a command and control center for India’s parliament. Parliament security head Sandeep Salunke noted the context for the $5 million contract being “In light of the recent increase in global terrorism” (Nice Systems press release, 25 May 2010).
India’s political trend towards poly-alignment whereby it can have both strategic energy agreements with Iran and strategic defense agreements with Israel is part of a broader strategy the USAWC report noted by which “India will fiercely protect its own internal and bilateral issues from becoming part of the international dialog (Kashmir being the most obvious example).” This hostility towards international engagement with its occupation is not the only resemblance to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Both were born out the the end of the British colonialism, both are seen as front lines of the “War on Terror,” both the Kashmiri and Palestinian armed groups are erroneously seen as illegitimate in their own right, being mere tools of a foreign aggressor (Pakistan for Kashmir and Iran or Syria for Palestine), both have widespread abuses of human rights, and the Israeli public’s general apathy about or hostility towards Palestinian self-determination is surpassed by the domestic discussion in India, where Kashmiri self-determination isn’t even an issue, though pacifying Kashmir and securing the border with Pakistan is.
The analogy between the two conflicts can only be taken so far, but the direct connection by which Israel’s pacification industry exports tools of control developed for use against the Palestinians (and Lebanese) to be deployed against Kashmiris (as well as against the Naxalites and others in India) shows a deep linkage between the two conflicts and how one feeds the other. So long as Israel seeks to maintain control over Palestine it will continue to develop pacification tools, and so long as India continues its campaigns in Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmiris can expect to taste the fruits of Palestinian pacification.
Jimmy Johnson is a Detroit-based mechanic and an organizer with the Palestine Cultural Office in Dearborn. He can be reached at johnson.jimmy@gmail.