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The New Alliance: Israel,Turkey, India and the U.S.

Unusual times breed unusual allies — try looking off the beaten track.

January 17, 2002

Unusual times breed unusual allies — try looking off the beaten track.

No treaties have been signed, and few specific details of the military intelligence agreements have been made public. But in diplomatic circles, where attention is paid to such developments, the conviction is growing that the world is witnessing the emergence of a new Triple Alliance in Eurasia — mirroring the one formed by Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in 1882.

The three countries in the new alliance — Israel, India and Turkey — share a great deal in common. They are a trio of regional superpowers, and their highly-regarded armed forces operate successfully in dangerous neighborhoods.

All three nations have large Islamic populations that aren’t going away. And all three countries worry increasingly about the growth of Islamic fundamentalism.

Furthermore, all three nations embrace modernization and secular societies. This trio is also hugely dependent on energy imports — although together they lie proximate to the great energy basins of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian.

Beyond these common interests, Israel and the Turkish military (as opposed to the Turkish state) have been cooperating closely, at least for the past five years. For example, the Israeli Air Force uses Turkey’s far larger airspace for training. The two nation’s pilots — like their two navies — exercise together.

But the events of September 11 and the war in Afghanistan have taken the strategic closeness of Turkey and Israel to an entirely new level — by bringing India into the equation.

The week’s visit of Israel’s foreign minister Shimon Peres to India in January 2002 was not only the third such meeting in less than a year. It was also the most visible sign of the new relationships.

The two countries now have an intelligence-sharing agreement that includes Israeli access to the results from India’s own new reconnaissance satellite.

They also have some enemies in common, as Israel’s Shimon Peres pointed out in his trip to India. He warned his Indian counterpart Jaswan Singh of the dangers emanating from Iran, which Peres called “the center of world terrorism,” and bent on becoming a nuclear power.

“If India seeks our help to fight terrorism, we will gladly do it. If in any small way Israel can help, our cooperation is there,” Peres said, adding that he saw India as “Israel’s best friend in the region, an open society — and a democracy.”

Israel, India and Turkey are all regional superpowers with large Islamic populations — and all three are worried by the growth of Islamic fundamentalism.

The emerging Triple Alliance carries far more than merely regional importance. It links together three pro-Western and powerful states in the unstable Middle East and Central Asia.

All of this is especially intriguing from a U.S. perspective. The United States can already count on Turkey as a member of NATO. And it has Israel as a close ally whose security depends heavily on American support.

But the real “kicker” in the new Triple Alliance is that it potentially extends America’s influence and reach because it includes India. Of course, what truly helps matters in this regard is that the current Indian government is determined to reform the country’s economy along free market lines — and to become much closer to the United States.

Obviously, the fact that the geographic and strategic triangle formed by Israel, Turkey and India enfolds the bulk of the world’s energy resources is all the more enticing.

But for that “great price,” there is a steep tribute to be paid by the United States. The very same region, after all, also contains most of the world’s biggest security headaches.