Future prospects of the India-Israel defense cooperation

Israeli defense players are actively participating in the 'Make in India' initiative and they have formed a number of joint ventures (JVs) with Indian partners.

Representatives Israel, France, Greece, United States, Italy, India, Germany and Poland stand in front of an Israeli F16 (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Representatives Israel, France, Greece, United States, Italy, India, Germany and Poland stand in front of an Israeli F16
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to India is encouraging for the future of the India-Israel partnership. The level of maturity we are witnessing in India-Israel relations is unique in many ways. The potential of this partnership looks brighter than ever before. During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel, we saw that the approach of both leaders is fresh and full of energy. Modi and Netanyahu both are setting the new rules of this partnership.
Both governments have taken a number of steps to maximize the common meeting points, i.e. the India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F), the India-Israel CEO forum, the India-Israel Innovation Bridge, an online platform to encourage and facilitate collaboration between Israeli and Indian startups; the Indo-Israeli Agriculture Project; MoUs (memorandums of understanding) between the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Israel Space Agency (ISA); and MoUs on India-Israel water cooperation.
The Indian and Israeli diplomatic teams are working hard but at the same time, they need to understand that the Modi-Netanyahu era is special. The kind of encouragement for launching new ideas and initiatives which they are getting from their leadership is unmatched in the world. They should leverage this opportunity.
The defense and security cooperation is the most crucial strategic asset for both nations. To identify collaborative ways to deal with the mutual threats requires military and counter-terrorism experts to conduct in-depth deliberations.
Israeli defense players are actively participating in the “Make in India” initiative and they have formed a number of joint ventures (JVs) with Indian partners. Israel’s Elbit group has formed a number of joint ventures with Indian companies, such as Adani-Elbit Advanced Systems India Ltd, a JV to manufacture UAVs in India.
Elbit Systems’ ISTAR Division has formed a joint venture with Adani Group’s unit Aero Defence Systems & Technologies and Alpha Design Technologies to manufacture UAVs in India. Since 2004, Elbit Security Systems and Alpha Design Technologies are engaged in another joint venture – Alpha-Elsec Defence and Aerospace Systems. This year, in July, both sides renewed the agreement to enhance the scope of operation of this JV.
In early 2017, IAI inked an MoU with Kalyani Strategic Systems to develop, build and market selected air defense systems and lightweight special purpose munitions. IAI has also entered into a cooperation agreement with Dynamatic Technologies and Elcom Systems for the production/assembly and maintenance work of mini-UAVs in India. At Aero India 2017, IAI’s Golan Industries Division signed an MoU with Taneja Aerospace & Aviation Ltd. (TAAL) to cooperate in the development, production, marketing and sale of civil and military aircraft seats. In the month of January 2016, IAI signed an MoU with Premier Explosives Ltd. In July this year, IAI and Wipro Infrastructure Engineering (WIN) announced a strategic alliance to manufacture composite aerostructure parts and assemblies.
Last month, India’s Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division (Tata Power SED) partnered with DSIT Solutions of Israel to supply portable diver detection sonar (PDDS) to the Indian Navy. Tata Advanced Systems and ELTA Systems of Israel have formed a JV called HELA Systems.
India’s Mahindra group has also formed JVs with Israeli defense partners. Mahindra Aero Structures signed an MoU with Cyclone, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, to collaborate on the production of aerostructures parts and assemblies. Mahindra group’s Mahindra Telephonics has signed an MoU with Shachaf Engineering of Israel. Both will jointly develop strategic electronics subassemblies and systems for aerospace, marine and automotive applications.
In 2017, India’s Dynamatic Technologies Ltd and Magal Security Systems of Israel partnered for India’s smart border management initiative. Both companies have rich experience in developing advanced technological solutions crucial for the protection of critical infrastructure and border management.
IN 2015, Kalyani Strategic Systems, a defense arm of Kalyani group, entered into a JV with Israeli government- owned Rafael Advanced Defence Systems. The Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems Pvt Ltd has invested in the high-end technology and advanced manufacturing techniques to develop missile technology, command and control systems, guidance systems, electro-optics, remote weapon systems, precision guided munitions and more. Rafael has also signed an agreement with Hyderabad-based Astra Microwave Products Ltd to build tactical radio communication systems, electronic warfare systems and signal intelligence systems. India’s Punj Lloyd and Israel’s IWI (Israel Weapon Industries Ltd.) have set up the first private sector small arms manufacturing plant in Madhya Pradesh, to produce equipment for both local and export use.
The Barak 8 (LR-SAM or MR-SAM) is the product of the joint efforts of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), India’s Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO), MAFAT (a joint administrative body of the Israeli Defense Ministry and IDF), Rafael, and Bharat Dynamics Ltd.
During the past three years, the Indian government has launched wide-ranging plans for military modernization, police force modernization and border management and these initiatives offer great opportunities for defense and security startups/SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) collaboration.
In Israel’s defense industry the contribution of the SME sector is significant. Despite being relatively low in numbers, these SMEs provide added value to the larger firms and are crucial for boosting Israel’s defense exports. In 2014, the SME department of SIBAT (the Defense Ministry’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate) launched a dedicated forum to provide guidance and consultancy about exports to the representatives of Israeli defense SMEs and to promote the country’s defense SMEs in international markets.
In India, a number of MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) used to serve as the suppliers to DPSUs (Defense Public Sector Undertakings) and they are the key players behind the success of some major defense manufacturing projects. According to the Dhirendra Singh Committee’s report (a committee set up by India’s Defense Ministry in 2015), nearly 6,000 MSMEs across the country are supplying the components and sub-assemblies to the DPSUs, ordnance factories, DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organizations) and private industries. During his visit to Israel Prime Minister Modi, along with Prime Minister Netanyahu, launched the India-Israel Global Innovation Challenge and called on Israeli and Indian startups to develop solutions in the areas of agriculture, water and digital health. A number of startups, entrepreneurs and research teams of both sides have actively participated. There is a need to promote such a culture of co-production among the defense and security SMEs of both sides too.
The “Digital Army” concept is not limited to the use of digital technologies; it is also about having a seamless coordination mechanism which provides actionable and real-time information. Israel was among the first nations to launch the Digital Army initiative. In the year 2004, Elbit Systems signed an agreement with the Defense Ministry for the Digital Army Program (DAP) for a period of 10 years (2004- 2014). Rafael Armament Development Authority Ltd. and Tadiran Systems Ltd partnered with Elbit Systems for DAP. In 2014, the IDF concluded the deployment of the Tzayad (Digital Land Army) system in all of its field formations and now they are working to build the next generation of the Israeli army’s digital C4I network. In 2015, India launched it’s Digital Army program. Israeli experience in building and running a robust DAP can give the right push to India’s Digital Army initiative.
Last year, India surpassed the United States in the total number of people online, second only to China. The increasing use of mobile telephones and social media is contributing to an explosive increase in cyber threats. To deal with the challenges in cyberspace, India will have to change its approach from reactive to proactive.
With more than 300 cybersecurity startups and approximately $6.5 billion of cyber product exports, Israel has become a cybersecurity powerhouse. In a joint statement issued during Prime Minister Modi’s Israel visit, both sides asserted their desire to institutionalize cooperation on cyber issues through a joint framework. And as Isaac Ben-Israel, chairman of the ISA and National R&D Council and head of Cyber Research Center at Tel Aviv University has said: “We have developed a lot of technology but there is just not enough of a market. India has a huge market and there is a lot of potential for cooperation between the two countries.”
In the mid-term review of FTP launched in the month of December, the Indian government has announced fresh incentives worth Rs 8,450 crore ($1.3 billion) to boost exports and to support the MSME and labor-intensive industries. There is also an emphasis on “Ease of Trading” across the borders, new products and new markets.
During 2015-16, approximately $317 million of Make-in-India defense platforms, equipment and spares were exported to over 28 countries in the world. A few days back India joined the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export control bloc. In June 2016, India was admitted to MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) too. India has joined two out of four major multilateral export control regimes. Israeli defense manufactures are now considering India as an export hub too. The Indian government’s “Make in India” and “Make with India” initiatives offer such opportunities.
This partnership is crucial for future security and prosperity of both nations and maximizing the military and commercial engagements should be the next goal of the India-Israel partnership.
The author promotes advanced technologies, the startup ecosystem and government business and technology related initiatives like Digital India, Make in India and Startup India through her portals, articles, videos and books.