Shireen M Mazari With all that has been happening in this region, one had tended to push the Indo-Israeli relationship on the backburner. This was not wise because the military dimension of this relationship is critical and has been a major factor in Indias military policies in Occupied Kashmir. Post-9/11 the Israeli factor has always covertly been present in Afghanistan because Israel was one of the first country to move into the Central Asian States energy sector after the demise of the Soviet Union and the emergence of independent Central Asian States. Israel has been a major contributor to Indias defence profile, including cooperation in defence production. When India led the few states who welcomed the Missile Defence programme of the Bush Administration, the shadow of Israel was there and one knew the major role it would be playing in helping India acquire missile defence capability. US technology and arms transfers through Israeli labels So it should not have come as a surprise to find yet another military agreement coming into being - this time the $1.1 billion contract between India and Israel, for an upgraded air defence system for India. The system, produced by Israel, is designed for naval use, aboard ships, and can shoot down incoming missiles, planes and drones. This will add to Indias missile defence capability, thereby further destabilising the nuclear balance in South Asia. So clearly Pakistan will have to add to its nuclear delivery systems and warheads if it wants to keep its deterrence credible. But even more relevant is the clear indication that India is all set to go full steam ahead to develop a second strike capability - first there was the nuclear submarine programme and now this air defence deal. The aggressive designs of Indias military acquisitions are now hardly oblique. It is strange that the US would allow the increasing militarisation of this region by deliberately disturbing the nuclear equation through its 123 Agreement with India and by allowing Israel to add to the imbalance. Or is the US still assuming it can gain control over Pakistans nukes in the scenario outlined in earlier columns? But the Indo-Israeli deal has repercussions for the neighbourhood also. For instance, through this deal Israel will get more naval access through India in the immediate vicinity of Pakistan and Iran. At any future date, it will make it much more feasible for Israel to target Iran from the sea - and keep the US and its Arab allies out of the equation, saving them a political crisis. For Pakistan also this presents further complications to its security parameters. Already, we are confronted with a two-front war: one at home with extremists in our midst; and a second through the covert low intensity conflict being waged by India, aided and abetted by the US, in Pakistans sensitive provinces of Balochistan and NWFP as well as FATA. The flow of weapons and money coming in from Afghanistan for this purpose has now been established without a shadow of doubt, by our government but for some strange reason it merely makes declaratory accusations while taking no action. There is also a darker side to the Indo-Israeli relationship in terms of their cooperation in clandestine operations. Israels tentacles through its covert operations agency Mossad spread across the Arab world and the Middle East and now through Indias RAW it will have South Asian access while India will gain greater access in West Asia. The Mossad connection with RAW goes back to the time the latter was created in September 1968. Indira Gandhi especially asked the RAW point man, Rameshawar Nath Kao to connect to Mossad. But the New Delhi-Mossad contacts had already evolved after Israel was allowed to open a consulate in Mumbai in the 1950s, even before India established full diplomatic relations with Israel. In any case RAW sent many of its personnel for training to Israel and C.D. Sahay, when he took charge of RAW in April 2003, was the first chief to have been trained by Israeli intelligence. He is reputed to being an expert on Kashmir, Pakistan and terrorism and had looked after the Pakistan desk as well as actually serving in Pakistan. The RAW-Mossad nexus has had a major impact on Indian policies towards Pakistan and Indian aggression in Occupied Kashmir. In 1993 there were reports of Mossad agents in occupied Kashmir and in June 1996 Janes Defence Weekly had reported that Israel was providing sensitive information on Pakistan to India through its spy satellite, Ofek. It was an Indian publication, The Pioneer, (3 March 2001) that revealed the extent of the RAW-Mossad cooperation against Pakistan. Also India acquired UAVs from Israel to patrol the LOC, especially after its intelligence failure at Kargil. It is this clandestine Indo-Israeli cooperation that should be an issue of concern, as it undermines stability around the whole region. With a strong covert presence of the US already in Pakistan (from marines to American mercenaries like Xe Worldwide and DynCorps), including in Balochistan from where Iran is being destabilised; and with India funnelling arms to the militants in FATA through Afghanistan, the Israelis may gain a foothold here without the states of the region discovering till after the event. After all, how does Pakistan ensure that the US covert operatives coming in without observing any immigration formalities are not also Israeli citizens? After all, many travel on non-Israeli passports? How do we know that our information sharing with the US is not travelling to New Delhi and Tel Aviv? These are issues that need to be taken up by Parliament which needs to ensure that all foreigners arriving in Pakistan come through proper procedures. This is a basic level to ensure security. And we know now, thanks to Seymour Hersh, that the US is war gaming scenarios on how to seize our nuclear triggers So there is simply too much risk involved and already too much access has been given to a vast army of clandestine US operatives. The Indo-US factor in Afghanistan has already been recognised as a source of illicit weapons supplies to militants in Pakistan. The Israeli factor simply ups the ante in this region - especially with the threat of Israeli small arms also creeping into the militants arsenals. It is time for greater transparency regarding the type of cooperation that we are involved in with the US; it is also time to factor in Israel as an element in our security parameters and in the regional dynamics - especially in terms of Extra Regional Forces (ERFs) and powers. With all these factors in mind, it requires little intelligence to realise that before we are encircled by hostile powers, we need to create our own proactive regional responses. A beginning can be made by simply improving our strategic dynamics with Iran. It can also be accompanied by creating a respectable distance between the US and ourselves, so that we have breathing space to formulate our own options.