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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 September, 2003, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
US-Israel-India: Strategic axis?
By Louise Tillin
South Asia analyst

Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon: Landmark visit
Ariel Sharon's visit to India, the first ever by an Israeli prime minister, marks a growing friendship between the two countries.

The visit comes amid growing calls from some interest groups and commentators in the US for the US, Israel and India to do more together to counter Islamic militants.

India and Israel's bilateral relationship has blossomed since the two countries opened diplomatic ties in 1992.

But more recently the idea of a strategic axis between the US, Israel and India has been gaining ground.


India's National Security adviser Brajesh Mishra set out India's stall in a speech to the American Jewish Committee's annual dinner earlier this year.

The three countries share a high, enduring interest in determining the roots and causes of terrorism
Richard Foster
Center for Security Policy
He said that the three countries "have to jointly face the same ugly face of modern-day terrorism".

"Such an alliance", he said, "would have the political will and moral authority to take bold decisions in extreme cases of terrorist provocation."

It is an idea that appears to have advocates, privately at least, within the Bush administration.

The Bush administration sees India as a rising regional power in Asia with an expanding economy and shared democratic values.

And as Richard Foster, Asian security fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, suggests, supporters of Israel within the administration can be assumed to view growing Indo-Israeli ties positively.

"The three countries share a high, enduring interest in determining the roots and causes of terrorism."

They also share a common interest in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of dangerous missiles, he says.

Common front

The green light given by the Bush administration for Israel to sell its Phalcon early warning radar system to India is one signal of the encouragement which Washington is giving to the developing strategic relationship.

Ilsyushin-76 aircraft, on which India will mount the Phalcon radar
Israeli radar will be used on India's Russian-made Ilyushins
The US has a veto over the countries to which Israel can sell defence systems that are based on US technology.

And clearance for Israel to sell its Arrow ballistic missile defence system to India is currently on the agenda in Washington.

New lobbying groups dedicated to promoting India's interests in Washington, such as the US-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) set up in September 2002, are increasingly working with Jewish groups such as the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to promote what they say are India and Israel's common concerns and values.

The AJC is planning to open a permanent liaison office in India this year and has been helping to train Indian Americans in the art of lobbying.

'Awkward balancing act'

The depth of the growing ties between the three countries is viewed with particular concern by Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism within its borders, and has lobbied hard to press this point with Washington.

But as long as the US remains dependent on Pakistan for its fight against al-Qaeda and the Taleban it is likely to continue an awkward balancing act in its policy towards South Asia.

The Bush administration has recently pledged $3bn in aid to Pakistan and Pakistani defence officials will be travelling to Washington in mid-September for talks at the Pentagon.

And this could explain some of the public reticence in Washington to talk of a US-Israeli-India strategic axis - something that worries, among others, many officials in Pakistan.

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