Israel, Central Asia and the BRI

As the modern day Silk Road or Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) departs the PRC, the first stop is Central Asia. With vast natural resources and geostrategic significance, Central Asia’s stability is essential to the growth and implementation of many BRI projects. As such, Israel’s strong relations with Central Asian countries could facilitate the BRI’s success. Israel’s well known areas of expertise relevant for this region include security and agricultural technology currently being used in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
This month’s visit of Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu’s to Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan illustrate how Israeli technology and innovative solutions strengthen resource management and could be incorporated in BRI projects in these important Central Asian nations. The trip also highlighted how Israeli approaches to security threats have already begun to prevent security the escalation of situations across Central Asia.

PM Netanyahu visits Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan:

left Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu with Kazakh PM Nursultan NazarbayevAs we discussed in SIGNAL Notes 11 & 12, Israeli inroads to Muslim majority nations reflect a significant period of diplomatic expansion for the Jewish State. Following the successful missions to Africa and the Persian Gulf, Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu recently visited the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan in what was wildly seen as a public recognition of the increasingly deep economic and political ties between these nations. (Above )

During Netanyahu’s visit, the PM signed several agreements to promote technological cooperation, energy security and domestic defense with his Kazakh and Azerbaijani counterparts.
He reaffirmed his commitment to increasing broad cooperation across security, technological innovation and agricultural development. In another strong and public display of the increasing diplomatic and geo strategic bonds between Israel and these Central Asian nations, Azerbaijan announced that it has purchased the Israel developed Iron Dome defense system to solidify its borders. Additionally, President Aliyev formally acknowledged the vast security cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan resulting in upwards of $4.8 billion of investment in Israeli security resources. 

According to Netanyahu “The relationship between us and our Arab-Muslim neighbors is changing dramatically. It is not all public — only part of it is, but it is changing dramatically. I view the relations with Kazakhstan as being part of this great change that the world is waiting for. They want to see not the forces of intolerance, the forces of tyranny, the forces of terror — they want to see forces of progress and of amiability and of friendship. And this is what this meeting represents.”

How is this Relevant to China?

Left Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev with Israeli PM NetanyahuThe successful implementation of the BRI’s massive engineering projects requires security on many levels. This is especially true for Chinese BRI investments in Central Asia. To date the PRC has already invested upwards of $70 billion in rail infrastructure in Central Asia. 

To ensure the security of this vast investment and the infrastructure during and after construction, innovative Israeli security solutions are already beginning to decrease risk and promote Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the region. Specifically, Israeli drone technology could be used across the vast Central Asian land mass to provide surveillance and intelligence data at low cost. Beyond the security component, Israeli drone technology is also being used to monitor agricultural production and provide mapping of resources to the regional governments. As PM Aliyev mentioned in his remarks to PM Netanyahu, Israel’s Iron Dome technology is already eliminating security threats in volatile border regions to the benefit of international investors and the free flow of trade.

In realizing the core aims of the BRI, primarily unimpeded trade and policy coordination, Israel’s strong and expanding relations with Central Asia can only support these policies. Israeli security technology in the form of drones and dynamic counter terror strategies can be used to contribute to regional stability. This technology could also increase the amount of data available for future risk management assessments. In terms of intellectual capital, Israeli scientist and engineers possess creative solutions to agricultural and construction problems which could decrease costs of investment. These would facilitate a more reliable construction schedule across the many important BRI projects throughout Central Asia.
In general, Israeli innovative methods and advanced technology could help where there are BRI investments in areas with turbulent security situations. Regional stability and a decreased security risk in centers of investment are positive indicators for potential economic success. As such, the integration of Israeli solutions can help enable tangible growth and security for Chinese investment in Central Asia.

How does this Impact Sino-Israel Relations?

As seen with the recent visit by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, Israel is strengthening the already strong diplomatic and economic ties with Muslim majority nations. As Israel broadens its international profile, Muslim countries are seeking the chance to enjoy the innovative solutions to pressing global issues, such as security or resource management that Israel offers. Increasingly, Israel’s inroads to these regions have paid significant dividends to the international community. Israel’s diverse set of global partners are reaping increased production and greater safety. For China, these developments can help provide the much-needed innovative thinking and groundbreaking technological advancements essential to fulfill the aspirations of the BRI. 

As Israel’s relations grow with Muslim majority nations such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, the ability of China to work with Israeli partners in these regions increases. In terms of the BRI this means that the creative Israeli solutions driving the international market can now be used to help bring the BRI into reality with the support of the international community and with greater political harmony. In short, Israel’s increased diplomatic reach enables the vast projects of the BRI in Asia and the Middle East to be implemented more efficiently and with greater win-win success for all the parties involved. Author:Yehudah SunshinePublished: 03-01-2017