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Amid Gaza War India-Israel Defence Ties Expand

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As Palestinians continue to be murdered in The Gaza Strip – either by bombs and gunfire or through the systematic denial of aid, food and water, the Israeli-Indian military-industrial complex continues to expand.

In March, Israel Aerospace Industries inaugurated its Indian subsidiary: Aerospace Services India (ASI), which plans to set up a large-scale hub for the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of defense equipment at Gurugram in the capital of Delhi’s bordering state of Haryana.

The ASI will be the sole technical representative of the medium-range surface-to-air Missile (MRSAM) system, which is jointly built by IAI and India’s Department of Defense.

Israel Aerospace Industries has signed several agreements with India since the two countries normalized ties in 1992. It has provided the army with missile defense systems, radars, satellites, and drones.

In 2017, IAI signed a deal worth almost US$2 billion to supply India’s army and navy with missile defense systems. At the time, it was described as Israel’s largest-ever defense deal.

Earlier in March, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) signed a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agreement purportedly geared to drive innovation in India. The initiative represented IAI’s “commitment to social responsibility in India and underscored both parties’ dedication to technological progress.”

This alliance between IAI and IIT-Delhi, the official statement added, will “demonstrate a shared vision leveraging research to drive progress and technological excellence, shaping together the future of technology in India”

For those who don’t know: The IAI is an Israel state-run defense company that has been a fundamental cog in Israel’s war effort in Gaza. In November 2023, it signed a US$1.2 billion deal to supply air defense systems to Israel’s military in light of the needs in Gaza. Unsurprisingly, in March this year, IAI reported that 2023 was the highest-grossing year in its history.

IIT-Delhi is considered a prestigious institution and consistently ranks among the top engineering institutes globally.

“We are delighted to embark on this collaborative effort with Israel Aerospace Industries, a frontrunner in the global aerospace industry,” IIT’s Prof. Preeti Ranjan Panda, Dean of Corporate Relations, noted while describing the tie-up with IAI. Panda further remarked: “This partnership aligns perfectly with IIT Delhi’s unwavering focus on pioneering advancements in research and technology. Together with IAI, we aim to make a significant impact on the future of technology in India.”

It is well known that Israeli tech companies and institutes of higher education have long held deep ties with American universities. These relations have helped inculcate a culture of technological exchange at the institutional level, and a pro-Israel sentiment at the US universities. It has also helped amplify widely held myths that hold Israel as the ultimate “start-up” and “self-reliant” nation.

With support for Israel at major IVY league universities now hemorrhaging as students become a lot more vocal in their criticism of and opposition to Israeli policies, it seems that Israeli weapons companies may be looking to invest in Indian universities as a means to create new systems of patronage under the pretext of technological exchange.

Much of the marketing behind IAI’s entry into India, for instance, focuses on how Israeli technology and expertise will assist Modi’s “Make in India” initiative.

Each time a deal is inked, its relevance to Modi’s larger project of purported self-reliance is emphasized. This means that India’s purported journey to self-reliance is being tethered with Israel.

Over and above the many problems with universities willing to cooperate with an apartheid state like Israel, that IIT would choose this moment to stand alongside an Israeli weapons arms company profiteering off an ongoing genocide is quite telling of the nexus between capitalism, militarism, and unashamed authoritarianism at the modern Indian university.

The Arab League praises India

In March 2024, the Arab League celebrated its 78th anniversary. As part of the commemorations (during a genocide in the Arab world no less), Ambassador Yusuf Mohamed Abdulla Jameel praised Delhi for its “principled stand towards [the] Palestinian cause”.

“We appreciate India’s principled stand towards the Palestinian cause advocating for a two-state solution. By voting in favor of Palestine and extending humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, India showcases its deep-rooted empathy and steadfast dedication to alleviating the suffering of those in need. In standing with Palestine, India not only upholds its moral obligations but also reinforces its status as a beacon of hope and solidarity in the global community,” Jameel said.

The Hindustan Times newspaper also carried a puff piece that claimed that India’s position towards Israel at the UN hadn’t changed despite closer ties between the two countries. “Its choice to continue voting in favor of key resolutions criticizing Israel instead of abstaining shows its preference to assert its originally held principles, regardless of which government is in power, at least thus far.”

There are two major problems with this assessment.

First, the characterization of India’s position towards Palestine as led by “principles” rather than self-interest is neither true nor useful as a means of assessing the shifts in Indian foreign policy.

Second, the suggestion that India’s fervent call for a two-state solution means that Delhi is invested in Palestinian sovereignty is also laughable.

Even the US, the biggest supporter of Israel, talks about a two-state solution.

Instead, I argue that one needs to look at the occasions in which India has carefully chosen to steer clear of taking a position at the UN which would have moved the issue towards the prospect of achieving justice.

Some examples:

  • In 2014: India abstained from a vote calling on the ICC to investigate Israel.
  • In 2015, India abstained from supporting a UN resolution endorsing a UN Human Rights Report that found evidence of “alleged war crimes” committed by both Israel and Hamas during Operation Protective Edge.
  • In 2022, India abstained from voting for the UNGA resolution calling on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for its view on the legal consequences of the “prolonged occupation” and “annexation” of Palestinian territory by Israel.

Truth be told, Delhi is merely interested in engaging in a form of performative solidarity with the Palestinian people, which would explain the endorsement from the equally useless Arab League.

Earlier in March, India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said that Palestinians have been denied their homeland (as he did earlier this week). As part of these comments, Jaishankar also said that “every response [referring to the attacks on Israel on 7 October] must take into consideration international humanitarian law”.

Again, a deeper examination of India’s policies would find that these statements aside, the Indian government has shown zero interest in holding Israel accountable for murdering or removing Palestinians from their homes.

India’s refusal to back South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague that accuses Israel of genocide, is all you need to understand about the foreign minister’s rhetoric.

Simply put, it is not in India’s self-interest to pursue justice for the Palestinians. But it is in its self-interest to maintain some form of diplomatic decorum in appearing that it hasn’t abandoned them.

Meanwhile, the India-Israel military-industrial complex rolls on.

The article originally appeared on the author’s substack.

Azad Essa

Azad Essa is a senior reporter for Middle East Eye based in New York City. He worked for Al Jazeera English between 2010-2018 covering southern and central Africa for the network. He is the author of 'Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel' (Pluto Press, Feb 2023)

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