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The New Triple Alliance

Are Israel, India and Turkey building a strong new alliance of regional superpowers with global reach?

January 17, 2002

Are Israel, India and Turkey building a strong new alliance of regional superpowers with global reach?

No treaties have been signed, and few specific details of the military intelligence agreements have been made public. But in diplomatic circles, the conviction is growing that a new Triple Alliance is emerging 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 — and 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 nations’ 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-long 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 relationship.

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.”

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.

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.

Martin Walker is the chief international correspondent for United Press International.