Each passing day brings in more evidence of the growing Indo-Israeli relations. The recent launch of Israel's next-generation of home-made spy satellite Ofek-5, and its plan to provide latest surveillance photographs to India will make it more belligerent towards Pakistan.
According to information available from different published sources, the 300-kilo Ofek-5, launched from the Palmachim Air force Base south of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast, boasts all weather, day and night colour cameras. The satellite will orbit round the earth every 90 minutes and can take photographs of the designated area from a height of about 500 km.
Although most of the features of the satellite have not been revealed, some of its unique abilities include "de-tuning", which enables the ground controllers to move the satellite to a specific location with great speed and accuracy, in response to special war contingencies.
The high-resolution cameras on the Ofek-5 (Ofek is a Hebrew word that means horizon) can produce images of objects small as one metre across, from an altitude of 600 km. The launch has given Israel an extended capacity not only to monitor military developments in the region but also demonstrates its advanced missile ability, experts say.
The satellite also reflects the expertise of the Israeli military industries like El-Op, Raphael and Elisra which provided the integration of all the new satellite systems, including the telescopic cameras, transmitter, sensors and auxiliary engines, in a very light and compact unit at a low cost of $12 million.
The spy satellite was launched into the orbit by the Shavit multi-stage launch vehicle, also known as Jericho. The ballistic rocket has a range of up to 7,000 km. Some years ago, the US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories calculated that an earlier Shavit could transport a nuclear warhead a minimum of 5,300 km, if deployed as a ballistic missile. Israel has never commented on any of these estimates.
Israel launched its first spy satellite, Ofek-1, in 1988, followed by Ofek-2 in 1990. The third satellite in the series was sent into orbit in 1995. The first major high-tech in the spy satellite project came in 1998, when a rocket that was to launch Ofek-4 into space failed. The military tried to extend the life of Ofek-3 by turning off its batteries, extending its life from the planned three years to about six, but eventually it burned up in the atmosphere about a year ago. Since then, the Israeli military has been using a private Israeli satellite, Eros, for its needs.
The cooperation between Israel and India, according to reports, extends to intelligence sharing, counter-insurgency operations and border management. High-level visits have given final shape to bilateral agreements, and a joint ministerial committee for exchanging intelligence on "Islamic terrorism" has reportedly been established.
The story of Israeli cooperation with India does not stop here. Israel has provided a highly advanced Green Pine radar system for Israel's Arrow anti-missile missile, three electronic tracking and command centres and the Rafael version of the Popeye cruise missile.
The Popeye II, said to be one of the Israeli defence establishment's best products, is an electro-optical guided missile with a 150 km range. When it gets to about 20 km from the target, its electro-optical eye searches for and then locks on to the target. It has a 400-kg warhead and can be used against both reinforced targets or as a fragmentation bomb against anti-aircraft sites.
Apart from this Hi-tech equipment, Israel is also providing the necessary expertise in the form of Israeli electronic warfare and naval cruise missiles expert operators to India. The Green Pine radar system has been deployed in the Indian-occupied Kashmir between the towns of Uri and Punch. According to the published reports, the system covers all of Pakistani's military command centres and bases between Islamabad and the Indian border.
The system, according to Jane's Defence News is a transportable ground-based multimode solid-state phased array radar, capable of predicting impact points of incoming tactical ballistic missiles.
The reports say that the three early warning stations built by Israel are located north of Ladakh, near the Azad Kashmir town of Kupwara opposite four strategic Pakistan Kashmiri towns of Kel, Skardu, Astor and Gilgit and in the town of Kargil.
Indian defence experts say that since the outbreak of the Afghan war in October, the Indian supreme command had ordered its various services, especially the air force and missile units, to keep the Green Pine radar and the electronic early warning stations running round the clock to drill the crew in real battle conditions.
The Indian high command remained aware of every detail of the Afghan war and various movements taking place in western China and the eastern reaches of Central Asia.
India also used the Israeli Green Pine radar last May in its biggest nuclear exercise called "Perfect Victory". The exercise was designed to depict an Indian victory over Pakistan. The 50,000 troops and 120 warplanes taking part in the war games practised deep forays into enemy territory and the takeover and demolition of enemy strategic installations.
Meanwhile according to Jane's Security, a publication of the authoritative security and defence journal, Jane's defence weekly, the Israeli intelligence agencies are reported to have intensified their links with India's forces and are now said to be heavily involved in helping New Delhi's fight against Kashmiri freedom fighters.
According to the Jane's weekly, Israel has several teams in occupied Kashmir which are training Indian forces to fight the dozen guerilla groups operating there. The report says that while the exact extent of the involvement in occupied Kashmir by Israel's intelligence agencies is far from clear, "it fits into Israel's increasing focus on events in Central Asia, and as far as Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim state, to counteract Islamic fundamentalism, which it perceives as a major threat".
Over the years Israel has continued to provide high-tech equipment to India to help it in the now Indianized "war against terror".
Published in Pakistani Daily Dawn, dated 19, June, 2002.