India launched an Israeli-made spy satellite on Monday that will help it keep a close eye on its borders stretching from Pakistan in the west to China in the north and east.
The launch is significant for several reasons. First off, the all-weather advanced satellite that the Israelis themselves use for surveillance on nations such as Iran is an eye in the sky that Indian security planners have been demanding for long. India has its own sophisticated satellite imaging programme that gives pretty high resolution pictures, but, as a defence scientist once told me, they tended to go a bit blind in bad weather, especially during the monsoon.
The Israeli satellite is supposed to be an all-seeing all-weather platform that at a height of 550 kms lets you see things like a motorbike on the street. New Delhi apparently asked the Israelis to speed up the satellite after the Mumbai attacks in November when gunmen arrived on the shores of the country's financial capital in boats.
The idea obviously would be to watch the borders, both land and sea on the west. But satellites such as these can also tell you about troop movements. Logically any big movement on the border with China would fall under its footprint.
Secondly, the launch underscores the tightening defence links between India and Israel, which, in the space of 17 years when India gave diplomatic recognition to Israel, stand transformed. Israel is India's second biggest defence supplier, behind Russia which had long enjoyed a virtual monopoly.