Indo-Israel relationship: Partner in Distress
Today, the Indo-Israel relationship continues to reach new heights with growing ties between Israel and India. The relationship has moved beyond defence cooperation and is also focussed on economic and high end technology cooperation as well as boosting people-to-people linkages through cinema and tourism.
Relations between Jerusalem and New Delhi were not always warm. Although both countries gained their independence from the United Kingdom within months of each other, they found themselves headed in pointedly different directions for nearly four decades – India as a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement that maintained close relations to the Arab world and the Soviet Union; Israel which linked its future to close ties with the United States and Western Europe.
Even though India recognized the state of Israel in 1950, full diplomatic relations were established after four decades in 1992.Since then the bilateral relationship between the two countries has blossomed at the economic, military, agricultural and political levels. Both countries see themselves as isolated democracies threatened by neighbours that train, finance and encourage terrorism, therefore both countries also view their cooperative relationship as a strategic imperative.
Military and Strategic Ties
Israel had always been of great help to India whenever it required urgent supply of arms – whether it was during the war against China in 1962 or the war against Pakistan in 1971. Israel provided India with much-needed imagery about Pakistani positions using its UAVs during the Kargil War with Pakistan in 1999. That was ultimately instrumental in turning the war around for India.
Israel is the second largest supplier of defence equipment to India now. Total defence trade between the two countries is worth more than $ 9 bn. India and Israel has also made several strategic agreements to jointly develop defence equipment like Cruise Missiles, Air Defence Systems as well as Space and Cyber technologies. There also exists a deep cooperation between the two countries in intelligence sharing and and Security training. Forces of two countries frequently carry out joint exercises.
Since 1992, civilian bilateral trade has grown to $5 Billion and with a proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the pipeline; this is expected to more than double in near future. Israel’s major exports to India include precious stones and metals, electronic equipment, fertilisers, machines, engines, pumps, medical and technical equipment, organic and inorganic chemicals, salt, sulphur, stone, cement, and plastics.
Science and Technology Collaboration
India and Israel have signed several agreements on science and technology. Specific areas of cooperation included information technology, biotechnology, lasers, and electro-optics. More recently the technological and economic cooperation was extended to the fields of agriculture, water management, solar energy, and medical insurance. Collaboration and cooperation between the two countries is also increasing in the space sector. In 2005, Israel’s TecSAR satellite was launched by Indian Space Research Organization on board their PSLV.
India and Israel entered a strategic partnership in the field of agriculture. The partnership aims to introduce crop diversity, increasing productivity & increasing water use efficiency.
Tourism and Cultural Ties
Cultural ties between the two countries go long back. India is considered the only country where Jews have been able to live without any danger and were freely integrated into the society. Indian soldiers were instrumental in liberating the city of Haifa during the second World War.
Over 60000 tourists from Israel visit India every year. An equal amount tourists from India visit Israel now. In 2011, representatives from both countries met in Delhi, and planned to enhance tourism through collaboration in the spheres of destination management and promotion, as well as in manpower development. Plans for tour-operators and travel agents in both countries to coordinate were also discussed.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first sitting Indian PM to visit Israel on July 4, 2017. After this significant visit the relations between the two countries have further strengthened. The security dynamics and challenges in both the countries, along with the rising forces of anti-state actors, terrorism, and extremism, will surely bind the relations stronger. Under such circumstances, military-security cooperation will definitely remain as a key element in the ties. Currently, the political climate is such that the overall ties are only broadening, and as Netanyahu put it, “sky is the limit” when it comes to Indo-Israeli ties.