6

This link says that India, Azerbaijan, and Vietnam are Israel's biggest arms importers.

The following chart shows that Israel is the 3rd largest arms supplier to India -

The following chart shows that Israeli companies have only a 2.1% share in the global arms sale -

enter image description here

Let us, for the sake of argument, exclude Japan and Russia from the equation as arms suppliers. Then, Israeli companies are behind a large number of companies from some prominent EU countries.

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that -

  1. Israel doesn't have a monopoly on the arms market.
  2. India prefers to import arms from Israel even though there are other bigger vendors available in Europe and the Americas.

My question is, why does India prefer to import arms from Israel over other suppliers based in Europe?

Is it because Europeans attach more strings (e.g. humanrights, free speech, etc.) to arms sales and Israel doesn't? Or, are there other reasons?

3
  • 1
    FYI on the pie chart: "The study did not include China due to insufficient data". I think the Russian sales are also undestated.
    – Fizz
    Sep 17, 2022 at 8:36
  • Reason for the latter is that they exclude a lot of the parts deliveries for joint ventures, including with India (but also some with China) csis.org/analysis/…
    – Fizz
    Sep 17, 2022 at 8:45
  • @Fizz, "The study did not include China due to insufficient data" -- Doesn't matter coz India doesn't purchase arms from China.
    – user366312
    Sep 17, 2022 at 8:45

5 Answers 5

9

There are some fairly obvious reasons from a military procurement viewpoint.

Due to necessity and through ingenuity, Israel is pretty skilled at manufacturing weapons.

Some examples:

  • Battlefield UAVs were pretty much invented by Israel, prior to that drones were mostly used for target simulations, though they have been some abandoned projects for reconnaissance/combat.

  • Israel pioneered re-purposing F15s as strike fighters, while their original intent was air superiority

  • Iron Dome is a practical and effective area anti-missile/artillery system.

These developments pretty much predated equivalent efforts by the top tier Western manufacturers like the USA, France or the UK

Though that it not always true, it seems like a lot of these systems are developed for relatively low costs. Israel just can't afford the pork barrel politics of F35s for example. Again, a question of necessity which makes them attractive to buyers.

The specifics of the SAM being sold

This seems to be a Barak. With a 100km range Baraks are mid/long range SAMs.

The Wiki link lists their equivalents:

  • Tor missile system
  • Bavar-373
  • Sayyad-4
  • Ra'ad
  • Khordad 15
  • MIM-104 Patriot
  • RIM-66 Standard
  • RIM-67 Standard
  • Aster (missile family)
  • HISAR
  • RIM-174 Standard ERAM
  • Akash
  • QRSAM
  • Barak-1

I recognize only some of those, like the RIMs, Patriots and Asters. Half of the rest are Iranian missiles, developed because Iran can't easily source weapons abroad - I'd rate those as "dubious". And some of the remainders are Indian-built.

Now, SAMs are easy weapons to "get wrong":

  • They operate in high threat environments, being pretty much the first thing any enemy air force tries to take out. They need to balance detecting enemies vs being detected by enemies - a SAM site is relatively hard to spot with its search radars turned off, but is also isn't much of a threat. So radars and electronics need to get that balance right and proof of that only comes from during actual operations.

  • Their acquisition systems can be spoofed, jammed or counteracted by stealth.

  • The missiles themselves need to track their targets and operate past active countermeasures like jamming or flares.

Actual war isn't always kind to SAMs. Patriots were applauded for shooting down SCUDS in Gulf War I, until later analysis seemed to indicate they didn't do much to usefully counteract what was essentially a souped-up V2.

Israel has been operating with near impunity in the Middle East, in places like Syria which has extensive Russia-supplied SAM systems (which kinda discounts at least the export variants of the Russian SAMs in the list above). US operations over Iraq in '91 & '03 show a similar outcome.

Basically, there are a lot of moving parts to a SAM. Unlike say a tank or a jet fighter, actual performance is hard to determine in advance. A nation with a proven track record with weapon systems has the advantage, even if the Barak has seen limited, if any, combat. And the extensive experience Israel has in avoiding enemy SAMs certainly gives them some insight to design better ones.

India:

The Barak is listed as co-development India and Israel. It is common to have offsetting programs in weapon sales, where country A gets to build x% of a weapon system it buys from country B. But an India-Israel collaboration is more likely to have a significant role for India, as opposed to say India-USA where India will at best get a very junior role building rather than designing.

Also, it can't hurt (see K B's answer) that Israel and Pakistan don't have diplomatic relations at this point.

Azerbaijan:

While India is a relatively uncontroversial customer for Western arms sales, this may be less the case with Azerbaijan, in the context of their ongoing squabbles with Armenia. Russia somewhat supports Armenia so they'd also somewhat drop out.

To achieve economies of scale, Israel is under pressure to support its domestic arms manufacture by exporting abroad and is, within limits, probably less exposed to domestic pressure groups against weapon exports than many Western countries.

Though there can be a lot of tension between Israel and its Middle Eastern neighbors, that hasn't stopped pragmatic dealings with some more remote Muslim-aligned countries. Relations with Turkey were a lot more cordial in the past and the Iran-Contra affair even had some Israeli involvement.

In short, for quality, price and relative ease of acquisition, Israel is a very credible and reasonable vendor for top-tier weapon systems.

4
  • Russian SAMs are superior to Israeli SAMs. Doesn't make any sense why India would completely discard Russia and go for Israel. I think it's something else is going on in the cover.
    – user366312
    Oct 29, 2020 at 0:49
  • 4
    Well, first of all, your assertion that Russian SAMs, especially export versions, are better, needs a bit of citation. Israel's been ignoring the Syrian air defense network for decades by now. #2 India has in the past been a big purchaser of Russian weapons, so their decision not to use them may reflect some insider knowledge about their performance. #3 An India-Russia partnership has the same drawbacks as an India-USA one - India would likely be very junior in it. #4. The current darling of Russian SAMs is the S-400, but it's in a different, more expensive and powerful, SAM class. Oct 29, 2020 at 16:23
  • @user366312: this answer seems to be missing the fact that the Barak-8 at least is a joint venture. So that's probably why they've got the deal. I can't think of a Western manufacturer that would have agreed to JV with India on something like this. Probably not even Russia agreed to JV a similar level of tech.
    – Fizz
    Sep 17, 2022 at 9:07
  • Ah never mind, it's discussed a bit later in the answer. To add something more useful here, the Barak series was also integrated with both land and naval Indian systems. In contrast, e.g. Saab refused to adapt the Meteor to any Russia-made jets that India has (despite repeated asks), so it will only go on the Rafales.
    – Fizz
    Sep 17, 2022 at 9:14
8
+100

Why does India and Azerbaijan purchase so many weapons from Israel?

Accept, as a given,

  • that Israel, due to its sometimes volatile relations with its neighbors, has had to spend considerable sums of money for the development and production of defensive weapons, and

  • that some of those expenses may be recouped by sales of those weapons systems to countries unlikely to attack Israel, and

  • that the quality and effectiveness of those weapons systems, being used for Israel's self-defense, is unquestionably high.

However, some of those weapons systems use shared technology derived from work by the United States. This makes some weapons re-sales subject to control by the United States.


India

In Israel’s arms sales to India: Bedrock of a strategic partnership1, SEP 04 2019, the authors describe the history and reasons for this relationship; and, in particular, the following.

What makes Israel a good arms supplier to India?

India suffers from many constraints in defence production and acquisition including lack of technical expertise, complex bureaucracy, lack of manufacturing infrastructure, inadequate funding, cost overruns, and project delays. Israel fills these shortcomings by supplying ready-to-use critical technologies, even on short notices. Instead of manufacturing-intensive heavy weaponry, Israel has created its niche in the market with its innovation-backed technologies such as UAVs, missile defence systems, avionics, precision-guided munitions and surveillance radars.

The Israeli imports are instrumental for India in patrolling and surveillance purposes in peacetime and eases the operational ability of armed forces in wartime. For instance, the missile defence systems, PGBs, and ammunition provided by Israel played a crucial role in controlling the escalation between India and Pakistan post-Balakot air strikes. The export-oriented Israeli defence industry and its openness to establishing joint ventures complement both ‘Make in India’ and ‘Make with India’ in defence.

After the end of the Cold War, India managed to significantly diversify its list of suppliers (See Fig. 1). Indian armed forces need technologies and ammunition that are adaptable to different weaponry. Israeli arms can be flexibly deployed to various wings of the military, which simplifies the operation during mission time. As its defence industry forms a vital part of the Israeli economy, it has developed the expertise to customise its arms according to the requirements of its customers.

Israel has always been a ‘no-questions-asked supplier’, i.e., it transfers even its most advanced technology without placing limits to its use. Some of the Israeli technologies utilise US components because of which the US has veto powers over the sale of those technologies. With improving strategic understanding between India and the US — especially as the US sees a major role for India in maintaining the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific — more technologies are likely be transferable in the future. These factors make Israel a potential ‘all-weather’ defence partner for India.

——
1 Harsh V. Pant and Ambuj Sahu, “Israel’s Arms Sales to India: Bedrock of a Strategic Partnership”, ORF Issue Brief No. 311, September 2019, Observer Research Foundation.


Azerbaijan

Strategic relations and weapons for oil.

Experts believe Israel unlikely to drop lucrative arms sales to Azerbaijan, 5 October 2020

The ties between Israel and Azerbaijan date back to the break-up of the USSR in the early 1990s.

The two countries forged diplomatic and trade relations, as Israel sought to build bridges with Muslim countries and Azerbaijan was working to build new relationships beyond its traditional ties with Moscow.

“Israel and Azerbaijan have strategic relations,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss, analyst at the Tel Aviv Institute for Strategic Studies.

“Israel imports quite a large amount of its oil from Azerbaijan and Israel exports to Azerbaijan weapons,” she said. “Azerbaijan is one of the largest clients of Israel’s defense industry.”

3
  • Russian SAMs are superior to Israeli SAMs. Doesn't make any sense why India would completely discard Russia and go for Israel. I think it's something else is going on in the cover.
    – user366312
    Oct 29, 2020 at 0:51
  • 1
    @user366312 has India completely discarded Russia? As far as I understand, they still have outstanding orders of S-400 systems. However, India has been under a lot of political pressure from USA and other countries to reduce spending on Russian armament (of which India is the largest buyer worldwide) and procure as much as possible elsewhere or domestically.
    – Peteris
    Oct 29, 2020 at 1:51
  • 1
    And Azerbaijan is not exactly friendly with Iran. The enemy of my enemy is my friend... Oct 29, 2020 at 9:19
0

The other answers are complete and correct. This is a supplementary but partial answer. Only the Indian part of the question is covered. This answer tries to answer OP's comment.

Permalinks of the articles from where the quoted texts are taken are not available. It can be verified in the Press Information Bureau's website.


  1. AWACS

Ministry of Defence

25-May, 2009 18:19 IST

Defence Minister to dedicate AWACS in the Service of nation on May 28

The first of the three Indian Air Force AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) platform landed on India soil escorted by the venerable Mig-29 and Jaguar fighters at the IAF’s Jamnagar airbase, today at 1135 hrs (IST).

A special ‘Induction ceremony’ awaits the AWACS in the National Capital where Defence Minister Shri AK Antony will dedicate this force-multiplier to the Nation on Thursday, May 28.

The news of the landing of the aircraft was conveyed to Shri AK Antony by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal FH Major within an hour of the former resuming the office as the Defence Minister for a second successive term.

The AWACS is a tripartite venture amongst India, Russia and Israel. The Indian Air Force laid down the operational requirements in detail based on which the Israeli ‘Phalcon’ radar was mounted on the Russian IL-76 aircraft equipped with the more powerful PS-90A engines making it more advanced than many such systems. This is the first of a total of three AWACS that the IAF is slated to receive. The remaining two are expected to be inducted into the IAF by 2010 and all the AWACS would be based at Agra. India is one of the few countries to have inducted the AWACS in their Air Forces.

The AWACS is a true ‘force-multiplier’ that gives a quantum jump to the operational capabilities of the Indian Air Force. Known as the Air Force’s ‘Eye in the Sky’, it is capable of detecting intruders over sea and land at large distances. It has many other capabilities including Electronic and Signal Intelligence gathering. Once operationalised alongwith the Operational Data Link (ODL), Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) and the Air Force Net (AFNET), the IAF would have taken a definitive step towards Net Centric Operations.

  1. SAM (BARAK Missile System)

Ministry of Defence

03-February, 2017 16:08 IST

BARAK Missile System

Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM) and Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MR-SAM) are jointly developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India and M/s Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI), Israel and as per literature available in Internet, M/s IAI, Israel refers this missile as Barak-8 missile system (upgraded version of BARAK Missile System).

LR-SAM is the Ship Launch Version and Project MR-SAM is the Land Launch Version of Barak-08 Missile system.

MR-SAM detects incoming enemy aircraft while they are well over 100 km away and destroys them at range upto 70 km.

LR-SAM has got long range engagement capability to penetrate in deep water/land to intercept all types of aerial targets (like Subsonic & Supersonic Missiles, Fighter Aircraft, Maritime Patrolling Aircraft (MPA), Helicopter and Sea Skimming Missiles.

This information was given by Minister of State for Defence Dr. Subhash Bhamre in a written reply to Shri Ram Charan Bohra in Lok Sabha today.


I would like to mention:

  • with these AWACS or SAM or whatever, India didn't discard defence relations with Russia. AWACS is a joint venture between India, Israel, and Russia (see bold text in the first press release).

  • Whichever year it is, there is a good chance one can see India having defence pact of some kind with other countries. Even if it is just a military exercise. These countries include Russia, US, UK, Japan, France, Maldives, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, and China too (military exercise only).

  • As others have mentioned, Russia is still a major defence partner of India (possibly still the largest).

0

My question is, why does India prefer to import arms from Israel over other suppliers based in Europe?

Your numbers are pretty dated. There were times when Israel was the 2nd or 3rd largest supplier to India, but recently it has been seriously overtaken by France (so it's 4th place now).

enter image description here

The reasons are somewhat complicated. Israel indeed seems to place fewer restrictions/condition on the arms it sells to India, which allowed it to negotiate more quickly sales in certain periods. Note for instance the "inversion" when Modi came to power. (Apparently Modi was also the first sitting Indian PM to visit Israel.) It's probably reasonable to assume a lot of the West was reluctant to to sell a lot of military stuff to Modi early on in his tenure, due to his reputation for stoking religious conflicts etc. On the other hand, after it appeared that Modi's grip on power solidified, and e.g. when Trump became US president, the roles reversed again. And Israel sold some dones, advanced missiles, and precision bomb kits etc., but not big ticket items like combat aircraft on the scale that India needs.

And if you want to go back to the early 2000s, Israel was apparently the only country that was willing to completely ignore India resuming nuclear tests in 1998. Also, back then, some Israeli defense firms had specialized in upgrading old Soviet-era equipment (like helicopters and fighter jets) to standards that the Russian companies had yet to to do. Likewise, Israel apparently had no qualms supplying precision ammunition during the Kargil war. The goal of "combating Islamic terrorism" being rather shared between the two countries. India has acknowledged this in slightly vague terms, as former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee noted in 2015 "Israel has crucially come through for India at times “when India needed them the most” (i.e. during crises or when other sources have not been available, for example, due to sanctions)."

1
  • This answer needs a conclusion.
    – user366312
    Sep 17, 2022 at 5:52
0

I would suggest that India sees a political affinity with Israel. After the reports last year by prominent human rights watch - Amnesty International, B'Tselem & Human Roghts Watch - that accused the Istaeli government of instituting Aparthied with regards the Palestinians one can think of Israel as a proto-fascist state. And after Modi's election in India, many commentators have commented that he has, under the policy of Hindutva, turned a multi-ethnic democracy into a proto-fascist state hostile to muslims.

So it's perhaps no surprise that India has seen fit to trade arms with Iarael who also is hostile to its own muslim Paleatinian population, within Israel proper and without - in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .