India and Israel are secretly engaged in negotiations for a military nuclear pact, according to DEBKA.com, the international intelligence site.
DEBKA’s military and intelligence sources say Adm. Sushil Kumar, chief commander of the Indian navy, on a semi-secret five-day visit to Israel in the first week of May, was designated to put the proposal before Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the name of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
The admiral met Sharon three times, according to DEBKA’s sources. Israeli defense czars turned up in full force for the second, including Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Malka, Navy commander Maj. Gen. Yedidya Yaari, Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz and Mossad Director Efraim Halevy.
India’s proposal, a milestone in the 11-year old security and intelligence collaboration between the two countries, is being examined extremely seriously in Jerusalem, reports DEBKA.
“Its timing gives it extra weight, coinciding with the largest military exercise India has ever staged and the eve of a revolutionary overhaul of its armed forces and intelligence services,” the report says.
India’s military, nuclear, chemical and biological warfare exercise, dubbed “Complete Victory” was clearly designed as a model for an Indian victory over Pakistan should a nuclear war erupt. More than 50,000 Indian troops and about 120 combat aircraft practiced deep-strike missions and the performance of army commandos and paratroops in operations for the seizure of enemy assets. It ended in a firepower demonstration in the North Indian nuclear test range at Pokhran, India’s underground nuclear testing site near the Pakistani border.
India’s nuclear collaboration plan hinges on the three Israeli 1,925-ton 800-class German-made Dolphin-class submarines, which are armed with Israel-designed 1,500-km range Popeye Turbo cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This flotilla is sought as a second strike capability for the Indian air force and naval units present in the Arabian Sea opposite Pakistan.
Israel maintains one or sometimes two of those submarines permanently in Persian Gulf waters as a sea-launched deterrent force — its second-tier, first-strike capability against Iran and Iraq; the second vessel alternates between the Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean as a deterrent element facing Syria and Western Iraq, while the third stands by at home base in case the other two summon aid.
India is after a strategic accord patterned on the Israeli-Turkish pact, which furnishes Turkey with an Israeli protective nuclear umbrella against Iraqi and Iranian nuclear, chemical and biological warfare threats. From Turkey, Israel fighter-bomber squadrons receive a permanent base in Turkish air force installations in case Israel finds itself at war with Iraq, Syria or Iran. Israeli aircrews train in Turkish bases, and its warships and submarines receive port facilities at Turkish naval bases.
India is likewise offering Israeli subs the use of its naval bases. The government in Delhi is particularly keen to purchase two of the advanced systems Israel fitted on its Dolphin-class subs and help in installing them in Indian subs. One is the top-secret Popeye Turbo nuclear cruise missile and the other, a sophisticated electronic system.
The Indians are also bidding for two additional members of the Popeye family of missiles, developed for air-to-ground and sea-to-shore assaults, especially against tanks. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources reveal here that Israel used the latter version for the first time against Palestinian intelligence command bases in the Gaza Strip.
The new form of collaboration plus acquisitions, if they materialize, will upgrade the Indian navy to the most powerful sea-going power in the Indian Ocean-Arabian Sea region. They will cost the Delhi government, according to DEBKA, roughly $3 billion, more than threefold the present total of India’s annual purchases from Israel.
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