A New Era for In­dia-Is­rael


Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - News - With in­puts from Sreeram Chau­lia

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s State visit to Is­rael has her­alded a new era in the po­lit­i­cal ties between the two na­tions. Steadily over the years, Is­rael has be­come In­dia’s most trusted na­tional se­cu­rity part­ner and de­fence sup­plier and this visit has been qual­i­fied as el­e­vat­ing the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship to ‘new heights’. A slew of In­dia-Is­rael joint ven­tures have fol­lowed the visit.

On4 July 2017, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ar­rived in Is­rael on a State visit and was re­ceived by his Is­raeli coun­ter­part Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu. This has cer­tainly her­alded a new era in the po­lit­i­cal ties between the two na­tions, ex­em­pli­fied by the man­ner in which Is­rael rolled out the red car­pet for the Indian Prime Min­is­ter. Only a select few world lead­ers have re­ceived such a grand re­cep­tion at Ben Gu­rion In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the oth­ers be­ing Pres­i­dent of the United States and the Pope. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and his Cab­i­net were on the tar­mac to greet Modi as he ex­ited his Air In­dia Boe­ing 747 in Tel Aviv.

As po­lit­i­cal ob­servers opined, “If diplo­macy can gen­er­ate na­tional cathar­sis, then Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has achieved it with his epic visit to Is­rael. By tread­ing with aplomb in a coun­try where not one of his 13 pre­de­ces­sors dared set foot, he has si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­de­fined In­dia’s ex­ter­nal self, and vin­di­cated Is­rael’s iden­tity. Gone are the dif­fi­dence and the gin­ger­li­ness that pre­vi­ously de­fined how In­dia in­ter­acted with Is­rael. In their place, Modi has in­jected con­fi­dence and cer­ti­tude about wear­ing In­dia’s choices and na­tional in­ter­ests on its sleeves. Ban­ished are the over­cau­tious, hyp­o­crit­i­cal and do­mes­ti­cally poi­soned lenses for ap­proach­ing Is­rael, and ush­ered in are bold, dis­pas­sion­ate and ob­jec­tive ways of han­dling this key West Asian power.”

Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s cross­ing of the ‘Ru­bi­con’(as it were) by vis­it­ing Is­rael is the fin­ish­ing touch to a saga of 25 years of pro­gres­sively warm­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. From that day when In­dia’s then Prime Min­is­ter PV Narasimha Rao de­cided to end the Cold War-era es­trange­ment and launch full diplo­matic ties with Is­rael in 1992, the two coun­tries have never looked back. Steadily over the years, Is­rael climbed up the ranks as In­dia’s most trusted na­tional se­cu­rity part­ner and de­fence sup­plier. The lat­ter was forged vir­tu­ally on the front­lines

dur­ing the Kargil con­flict in 1999 when Is­rael pulled out all stops to pro­vide the Indian Air Force with ad­vanced sys­tems en­abling laser-guided bombs to be launched against key tar­gets in the high moun­tains.

Ties between In­dia and Is­rael have ac­cu­mu­lated and re­main un­af­fected by New Delhi’s con­tin­ued sup­port for Pales­tinian state­hood and its strate­gic equa­tion with Is­rael’s bête noire, Iran. The Indian PM has ac­com­plished far more with Is­rael than merely fly­ing the flag in the coun­try. Un­der his lead­er­ship, In­dia has signed with Is­rael one of its most vi­tal de­fence deals, for sur­face-to-air mis­siles, while open­ing up a num­ber of new vis­tas for co­op­er­a­tion in­clud­ing in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy trans­fer.

As per com­men­ta­tors, “Modi has also twinned his ‘Make in In­dia’ with Is­rael’s ‘Make with In­dia’, posit­ing Is­rael as a core part­ner for In­dia’s eco­nomic modernisation. Geopo­lit­i­cally, Modi has com­pleted a full cir­cle with his much-awaited Is­rael trip. His per­sonal diplo­macy with Gulf Arab na­tions, Tur­key and Iran in the past three years have yielded ma­te­rial ben­e­fits for In­dia. But there was this lit­tle chink in his ‘Look West’ pol­icy ar­mour — the most pow­er­ful West Asian state, Is­rael, was ea­gerly await­ing his pres­ence. Now that Modi has done that, been there, the nat­u­ral part­ner­ship has been freed from a sense of in­com­plete­ness and will gal­lop ex­po­nen­tially.”

PM Modi’s three-day trip cov­ered the breadth of Is­raeli in­dus­try from agri­cul­tural and wa­ter man­age­ment to tech star­tups and com­merce. Seven ma­jor agree­ments were signed, deal­ing with wa­ter, agriculture and space tech­nol­ogy, the two coun­tries also cre­at­ing a $40 mil­lion dol­lar re­search and de­vel­op­ment fund for joint in­no­va­tion.

Amongst the his­tor­i­cal – or sen­ti­men­tal – pro­grammes for Modi and Ne­tanyahu was to visit the Indian Army Memo­rial, which com­mem­o­rates the role played by Indian Cavalry in the Pales­tine cam­paign of 1917-18. This was at the bat­tle of Haifa in Septem­ber 1918, per­haps the only time that a for­ti­fied city had fallen to action by horsed Cavalry. The two lead­ers also spent time with mem­bers of In­dia’s Jewish di­as­pora, a com­mu­nity of more than eighty thou­sand Jews now liv­ing in Is­rael who can trace their roots back to the sub­con­ti­nent. A poignant meet­ing was with 11-year old Moshe Holtzberg, whose par­ents were vic­tims of the Pak- spon­sored ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Mumbai in 2008.

Dur­ing their for­mal press con­fer­ence, Modi and Ne­tanyahu reaf­firmed their com­mit­ment to co­op­er­ate in ar­eas of de­fence and se­cu­rity. Is­rael has pro­vided weaponry to In­dia even be­fore the es­tab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions and to­day, about 40 per­cent of Is­rael’s de­fense ex­ports go to In­dia mak­ing Is­rael its third largest de­fense sup­plier.

Just a few months ear­lier, in April 2017, Is­rael Aero­space In­dus­tries (IAI) an­nounced a deal worth nearly $2 bil­lion mak­ing it the largest de­fense con­tract in Is­rael’s his­tory, the pack­age be­ing for so­phis­ti­cated air and mis­sile de­fense sys­tems for the Indian Army.

Look­ing to deepen ties beyond high­dol­lar de­fense deals, the two lead­ers pre­sented a se­ries of agree­ments between In­dia and Is­rael for co­op­er­a­tion on satel­lite tech­nol­ogy, wa­ter and agriculture, as well as the cre­ation of a $40 mil­lion in­no­va­tion fund. Modi vowed to in­crease co­op­er­a­tion with Is­rael on a wide range of fields, notably wa­ter tech­nol­ogy, agriculture and counter-ter­ror­ism. “Is­rael and In­dia live in com­plex ge­o­graph­ics,” Modi said. “We are aware of strate­gic threats to re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity. We have wit­nessed ter­ror, so has Is­rael. Prime Min­is­ter Ne­tanyahu and I agreed to do much more to­gether to pro­tect our strate­gic in­ter­ests and also com­bat grow­ing rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion, in­clud­ing in cy­berspace”.

Ac­cord­ing to the joint state­ment, both prime min­is­ters re­it­er­ated their strong com­mit­ment to com­bat global ter­ror. “They stressed that there can be no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of acts of ter­ror on any grounds what­so­ever”. The state­ment also hailed bi­lat­eral de­fence co­op­er­a­tion, noth­ing that In­dia and Is­rael agreed that “fu­ture de­vel­op­ments in this sphere should fo­cus on joint de­vel­op­ment of de­fence prod­ucts, in­clud­ing trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy from Is­rael, with a special em­pha­sis on the ‘Make in In­dia’ ini­tia­tive”. In­dia is the world’s big­gest im­porter of de­fence equip­ment and Is­rael has be­come one of its ma­jor sup­pli­ers.

The two lead­ers in­spect the Is­raeli Guard of Hon­our

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi at the In­dian Army Me­mo­rial

Flash back to 1918 : In­dian Army Cavalry en­ter­ing Haifa city

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