From Dr Hamid Hussain
There are some discrepancies in Indian and Pakistani narratives that give rise to many speculations. I have also heard some rumors about an Israeli pilot in Pakistani custody but hard to confirm or make sense. One Pakistani former senior diplomat has alluded to this. If he is wrong then it is most irresponsible on his part. If true then in these days of Wikileaks and anointing of saints of modern day technology; St. Chelsey Manning and St. Julian Assange, it can not be kept secret for long. In hyper-nationalist fervor, it is very easy for people to go ‘off the rails’ and modern technology running away with ‘fake news’.
It will be extremely irresponsible on part pf Israelis to jump into India-Pakistan fray directly by allowing its pilots to fly combat missions. As India buys a lot of defense equipment therefore many Israeli technicians are likely helping Indian forces in training and maintenance of defense equipment which is different. Israel is very good at ‘bridge technologies’ where advanced electronics of either American origin or indigenous made are retro-fitted in Russian products to improve their capability. Indian inventory is predominantly Russian therefore it makes sense for Indian-Israeli cooperation in this arena. India improves its defense capability although in my view only marginally and Israel finds a lucrative market for its defense industry. Nothing wrong as it is in the interest of both parties.
On the other plane, threat of Muslim extremist as well as separatist tendency in both countries makes them sympathetic to each other’s plight. Cooperation on this front is mainly in intelligence realm and counter-insurgency training and sharing experience. Under current BJP government, it seems that India has decided to follow the Israeli model. However, in my view Israel’s problem is totally different than India’s. If Indian strategic community is not careful and carried away by emotions, a local Kashmir problem can become a national chronic Migraine headache. I sensed a lot of fear and uncertainty among Indian Muslim diaspora coming from different geographic areas (UP, Delhi, Surat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu) during recent conversations. This is totally different than a decade ago. Indian strategic community should pay attention to one statistic that provides some strategic clarity. India with a population of 180 million Muslims saw departure of less than two dozen Muslims to join Daesh in the killing fields of Middle East. Belgium with a Muslim population of less than half a million saw over 500 fighters fighting in Middle East. India can proudly take credit for its democratic and secular foundations that keeps hope alive among minorities. Any crack in these foundations can unleash demons that will be hard to understand let alone control.
In Pakistan army, I found a good number who advocate some kind of relations with Israel. One former Pakistani army officer who was a defense contractor was involved in getting some parts from Israel for Pakistan’s American equipment during the time when Washington had imposed some sanctions on Pakistan. Once he scribbled on the bottom of his order to Israelis ‘Thank God you are not our enemy’. An Israeli Colonel and a good friend on the issue of increasing India-Israel relations in early 2000s told me that Pakistan ‘left the playing fields of Eton for others to play,’ hence no reason to complain now. My personal view has been for a while for Pakistan to have some normalization with Israel in the absence of normal diplomatic relations. Now, that Arabs are running to normalize relations with Israel especially Saudi Arabia and UAE, they can grab their robes & thobes that will provide them some cover.
THAAD deployment is a separate issue and I don’t see its relationship with India-Pakistan stand-off. Such deployments are agreed upon months if not years before and not done suddenly. Main regional concern in Middle East is Iranian missiles. In this both Israel and Saudi Arabia are concerned. In fact, Saudis recently paid $ one billion down payment for THAAD and many Israeli security experts see this in Israeli interest as Tehran is a common foe. I think Oman has also placed an order.
In Israel, current THAAD deployment is part of joint exercise to practice and is a tactical deployment. This is not permanent deployment but a single battery is participating in exercise and to my knowledge there will be no real time test for intercepting an incoming target. The radar system of THAAD called AN/TPY2 has been operated by American troops in Israel for several years. These are complex and advanced systems that require years of planning. However, deployment timing can be sudden what is called in military jargon as ‘Dynamic Force Deployment’. This trains the soldiers manning these platforms to act in short time and surprises the adversary.
Israel has a layered defense system. It has its own set of different anti-Missile systems for different types of threats. It operates Iron Dome (for short range rockets possessed by Hezbollah & Hamas), Arrow (for missiles coming from outside of earth’s atmosphere) and David’s Sling (for tactical medium to long range ballistic missiles). If permanently deployed at sometimes in future, THAAD will provide an additional layer. US decision to withdraw from Syria and if Iraqi domestic political pressure under the influence of Iran forces withdrawal of remaining US forces from Iraq will provide a ring around Israel for Iran’s mischief. If Iran provides different range rockets to its proxies in Syria and Iraq and increase supply to Hezbollah and Hamas, this will give Tehran a potential deterrence card against Israel.
I hope this clarifies some of your questions and not further muddy the waters.