Who arms India’s occupation in Kashmir?
Indian armed troops patrolling the streets in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Photo: Zia Shakeel.
Since 1950, India has imported the largest volume of arms in the entire world.
Spending on arms has escalated since India’s right-wing government came to power in 2014. The two countries that send India the most weapons to enable the ongoing occupation in Kashmir are Israel and the United States.
The History of Indo-Israel Arms Sales.
Arms sales from Israel to India began in earnest in 1992 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, a long-time ally and weapons supplier to India. The stream grew following the 1999 Kargil War during which Israel provided key ammunition to India.
In 2010, an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship belonging to the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens. In the 2000s, pressure from the American government forced Israel to halt arms contracts with China. These events resulted in Israel becoming diplomatically estranged from its two major customers (Turkey and China) and forced Israel to focus more on the massive market potential of India.
Israel’s defense industry is a key source of revenue for the state and is overwhelmingly export-oriented. 75% of Israeli defense production goes to overseas customers and Israel is notorious for its “no questions asked” policy. Despite decades-long attempts to foster its own domestic production of high-tech weapons, India must often purchase them overseas. Consequently, India is now Israel’s #1 customer, spending heavily on drones, missile systems, sensors, radar, and electro-optic systems. These sales are mutually beneficial, providing India with high-tech weapons and Israel with cash.
There are huge sums involved in these arms sales. The Indian government has refused to answer questions from Members of its own Parliament about the value of arms contracts with Israel. There are also allegations of corruption, specifically the bribery of Indian officials. In 2012, as punishment for such practices, India even barred the state-owned Israel Military Industries (along with 5 other foreign defense firms) from bidding on Indian defense contracts for 10 years.
Growing Indo-Israeli Military and Intelligence Ties.
Robust arms sales have led to increased cooperation between the militaries and intelligence agencies of India and Israel: Since 2001, at least 8 defense chiefs from Israel and India have visited the other country. The “national security apparatuses brainstorm together on internal security…” and even have a “Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism” that was established in 2002. The Indian Navy regularly conducts port visits to the Israeli city of Haifa and has even conducted “passage exercises” with the Israeli Navy.
India is Israel’s #1 customer when it comes to weapons.
Israeli Outreach in Other Sectors.
Israel has also parlayed its growing arms trade with India into other sectors.
In terms of agriculture, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 1993, a “Work Plan” in 2006, and an “Action Plan” in 2008. Israel currently operates 29 “Centers of Excellence” in various Indian states where the latest Israeli horticultural technologies are on display.
Israel also advises India on water management and recycling and has signed a Technical Cooperation Agreement with India for the purpose of wastewater management.
India’s Prime Minister with Israel’s last Prime Minister. Credit: Middle East Eye.
The Indo-American Arms Trade in Recent Years.
The weapons that the US supplies to India are used to occupy, kill, and suppress Kashmiris. Major sales of American arms to India began even before Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister in 2014. Direct arms sales from America to India have grown despite the State Department’s reports about India’s assault on religious minorities, the press, and the judiciary. In the last five years alone, the U.S. government has delivered hundreds of aircrafts, missiles, and bombs to India.
In 2019 & 2020, India signed two $100-million contracts for around 72,000 assault rifles with Sig Sauer, a firearms company based in New Hampshire. These weapons equipped India’s Kashmir-based forces to be directly used on Kashmiris. In 2020, StandwithKashmir launched a campaign to shed some light and halt the deal.
Sig Sauer is complicit in the Indian government’s ongoing militarization, repression, occupation, and settler-colonization of Kashmir.
In the past couple of years, India has increased its defense partnership deals with the United States & Boeing exponentially. India is not only using Boeing’s weapons to occupy Kashmir, but it is also using it to promote warfare at the borders with Pakistan & China. Last year, the US offered India Boeing’s F-15EX fighter jet following another week of military tensions at Kashmir’s borders with China & Pakistan. India has become so bloodthirsty for weapons that it prioritized arms trade deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars over medical aid when COVID cases spiked across India in March of 2020.
In addition to the skirmishes at the border between India and China, tensions have been high at the Line of Control between Pakistan and India on both sides of the borders of Kashmir as well. Pakistan alleges that India violated the ceasefire more than 3,000 times this year, killing at least 28 civilians and wounding more than 249. Kashmir is a flashpoint among three giant nuclear powers & Boeing is fueling warfare by further arming India. In July of 2021, Boeing and Tata announced their delivery of the AH-64 Apache combat helicopter for the Indian army. This helicopter model is an attack helicopter that is meant to be used in combat on Kashmir’s borders near Pakistan and China. Boeing currently has 62 aircraft in operation with the Indian military — Apache, Chinook, P8I, C17 — and plans on becoming the third-largest civil aviation market in the world with over 2,000 Boeing aircraft coming into India over the next 20 years.
Boeing Arms Genocide. Credit: @wearedissenters.
High-level intelligence officials from the U.S. and India convene twice a year (once in India and once in the US). American Special Operations forces also train frequently with Indian counterparts in Exercises Yudh Abhyas (held annually in Alaska); Tarkash (2015, 2017); Vajra Prahar (2016, 2018); and Malabar (2017).
India continues to get away with purchasing weapons to commit mass murder and war crimes in Kashmir.
Since 1947, the Indian occupation forces in Kashmir have killed an estimated 100,000 Kashmiris and have made Kashmir the most militarized region on Earth. The ratio of Indian personnel to Kashmiri civilians is 1:10.
India is able to get away with purchasing weapons so it can continue committing war crimes and murder in Kashmir because of its upper hand within Western countries. India is seen as an important region within the geopolitical space. Israel, India, and the United States share a common vision when it comes to settler colonialism, ethnic cleansing, land theft, apartheid, and more. Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have not only remained silent on India’s occupation of Kashmir, but they continue to share similar arms trade defense plans with India.
Kashmiris, Palestinians, Yemenis, indigenous First Nation peoples, immigrants at borders, Black communities, etc. are all fighting colonial partners. None of us are free until all of us are free.
StandwithKashmir volunteers at a Boeing protest organized by SJP Chicago.