Why is Narendra Modi Keen on Strong India-Israel Relationship???

India -Israel relations, they refer to ties between the Republic of India & Israel. The two countries enjoy an extensive economic, military, & strategic relationship. India happens to be the largest purchaser of Israeli military Equipment’s& also Israeli is second largest defense supplier to India after Russia. As of 2014, India is the third largest Asian trade partner of Israel, & tenth largest trade partner. In 2014 bilateral trade, excluding military sales, stood at US$4.52 billion. In 2015 two Nations are negotiating for an extensive bilateral free trade agreement, focusing on areas such as IT, Biotechnology, & Agriculture.

In September 2016, Minister of Agriculture {India}, Radha Mohan Singh visited Israel to strengthen India-Israel agricultural ties. He met his Israeli counterpart Uri Ariel, where the discussion concerned about collaborative opportunities in agriculture between both the Nations.

Military & Strategic Ties– India & Israel have increased co-operation in military & Intelligence ventures since the establishment of diplomatic relations. The rise of Islamic Extremist terrorism in both nations has generated a strong strategic alliance between the two Nations. India recently launched a military satellite for Israel through its Indian Space Research Organization. In Naval terms India sees a greater strategic value in an alliance with the Indian Navy, given India’s dominance of South Asian Waters. In Septermber2016, Indian Government approved the purchase of two Phalcon AWACS, India was also considering the purchase of of newer Harop drones. India is also in the process of obtaining missile—firing Hermes.

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin who is in India on a six day visit to India, has met PM Modi & President Pranab Mukherjee. Rivlin is the first head of the state to visit India in nearly 20 yrs., is a sign of growing partnership between the two Nations. The last Israeli president to visit India was Ezer Weizman, in January 1997.

The political Message behind Israeli president’s visit & the significance of the visit to India

As we all know Rivlin is the second president of Israel to visit India in almost 2 decades. This visit comes after President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Israel last year. This will lead to PM Modis visit to Israel probably next year. Rivlin’s visit marks 25years of formal diplomatic ties with Israel which was set up by P.V. Narasimha Rao Government in 1992.

The political message after the visit of Israel PM Ariel Sharon in 2003, no head of Government from Israel has come here & No Indian PM has visited Israel.

Rivlin states “Filled with pride as I depart for state visit to India to see how Israeli innovation is improving the lives of millions,” President Rivlin tweeted before leaving for India. The political message is very clear—Israel is a key partner for India in the spheres of security, defence & agriculture among others. Political sensitivity over India’s longstanding ties with Palestine had forced successive governments to keep ties low-key. But last year, President Mukherjee became the first Indian head of the state.

India & Israel tie-up other than Agriculture & Defense—

Agriculture has emerged as a Key focus for the two Nations. Mikhael Mirilashvili, chairman of water Gen, one of the most important futuristic companies of Israel that specializes in water resource, is accompanying the president. President Rivlin will also visit Chandigarh, Karnal. In Karnal there is Center of Excellence of Indo- Israeli Agricultural project. India has benefited from Israeli expertise in horticulture, mechanization, protected cultivation, orchard & canopy management, nursery management, micro-irrigation, post-harvest management particularly in Haryana &Maharashtra. Israeli drip irrigation products are widely used in India.

Economic Ties between India & Israel –

From $200 million in1992, bilateral merchandise reached $5.19 billion in2011. It got stagnated after that. Though trade in Diamonds constitutes close to 505 of bilateral Trade, trade has diversified into several sectors such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, IT & Telecom, homeland security in recent years.

We find major exports from India are precious stones, metals, textiles, textile articles, plants&vegetables products & mineral products. Major imports are potash & mineral products, base metals, machinery etc. In recent years Israel, has taken strategic steps to strengthen Economic relations with china, Japan & India.

Why is India getting serious about relationship with Israel—

A hallmark of Modi’s governments foreign policy has been very confident assertion of Indian interests. This is reflected in his government’s vi-a-vis Israel, marking a distinct break from the unnecessary & counterproductive of the pat.Despite sharing 24 years of diplomatic ties and working closely on Defense, counter terrorism, agriculture, & energy related issues, no Indian PM or President had visited Israel until Mukherjee’s last year. Infact it was recently revealed that since the beginning of 2014, representatives from Israel & Saudi Arabia had five secret meetings to discuss a common foe Iran. Keeping India’s wider strategic interests in perspective, successive Indian Governments since the early 1990s have walked a nuanced line between expressing general concern for the Palestinian cause. Israel has always been a good friend to India, but New Delhi continues to shy of demonstrating it. The terrorism both the Nations faces comes only from disaffected groups within their territories.

PM Modi & his judged well by repudiating the discredited relationship between two Nations, an open relationship with Israel serves India well &it’s about time Tel Aviv gets the recognition it deserves from New Delhi. Sushma swaraj’s visit has made it very clear that even India will try to balance its commitments vis-à-vis Israel & Palestine, New Delhi& Tel Aviv will continue to work towards more progressive approach to partnership that spreads across various sectors

In the wider historical context, India’s relationship with these two entities have been defined & molded by internal constraints. It is very unlikely PM Modi will abandon the pragmatism of his predecessors in dealing with relations. This is true for PM Modi who has to deliver on his promise of an Economic boom, a promise which is also dependent on Gulf oil for Energy security. Though Israel’s size is small, but in the sphere of innovation & technology it is a giant. President Rivlin extended support to Indian Government\t in combating terrorism & terror acts. Rivlin also further declared that nothing can justify terrorism saying ‘we stand together in defending our people & our values’. PM Modi also voiced out India’s appreciation for Israel’s ‘clear support’ for India’s permanent candidature in a reformed UN security council.

PM Modi also listed the multi-dimensional & wide ranging lists -enhancing agricultural productivity, innovation linkages, science & Technology for benefit of both the Nations, cultural exchanges, through Educational programmes. Drawing inspiration from the colours of Indian flag in which the saffron colour represents strength & courage, the white peace & truth, the green fertility & growth and the blue wheel in the center, the eternal cosmic Law, Rivlin applied these virtues to Israel to innovations such as Advanced solar energy, water management & irrigation milk yields from cows as only small examples of Israel’s Innovation defies the imagination. The point to be noted here is that India & Israel got Independence same time & Gandhi believed that it was legitimate for Jews to get a separate state of their own.

Jai Hind

Dr.S.Sukanya Iyer