India’s relationship with Israel started when India formally recognised Israel as a state on September 17, 1950. However, embassies were started in 1992 only. Both the countries see themselves as isolated democracies threatened by neighbours that train, finance, and encourage terrorism, attack their borders, therefore they view their cooperative relationship as a strategic imperative.
Over 70,000 Indian Jews now live in Israel (over 1% of Israel’s total population). In India, we have 0.0004% of Jew Population who are scattered in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Goa, Calcutta and Delhi. Recently the Jews were considered as minorities in Maharashtra state. Jews’ contribution in India is seen more in Indian Film Industry as they have given some of the most famous actresses like Sulochana, Pramila, Rose, Romila and others. The Father of Modern English Poetry is Nissim Ezekici, a Jew. Who can forget the crucial contribution of Lt. Col JFR Jacob in the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan?
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 of 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.
India’s large Muslim population was another major obstacle to building a relationship with Israel, as India feared that close relations with the Jewish state might somehow radicalise its Muslim citizens – numbering more than 100 million – and hurt its relations with the Arab world.
The Indo-Israel defence relationship is so strong that between 2005 and 2014, it accounted for 7 percent (in dollar terms) of military equipment deliveries—the third highest after Russia and the United States.
As Indian President Pranab Mukherjee recently noted, Israel has crucially come through for India at times “when India needed them the most” (i.e. during crises or when other sources have not been available, for example, due to sanctions). The president referred to the assistance given during the Kargil crisis in 1999 in particular, but there has also been less publicly-acknowledged help in the past, including during India’s 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. Israel also provided humanitarian relief to India. Following a devastating earthquake in 2001, Israel sent an IDF emergency response delegation to India for two weeks to provide humanitarian relief and treatment for the victims.
It was suggested that an Asian alliance comprising India, Israel, South Korea, Japan and Australia could work together to deal with issues including missile defence and piracy. At the global level, the differences in the outlook of both nations are evident. India seems more in favour of a multi-polar world while Israel prefers a uni-polar one. But both nations do not want to see a weakened US. In this context, it was felt that greater cooperation should be undertaken between Israel and India on Capitol Hill to support lobby groups and educate Americans on issues of concern to both nations.
In Business from US$ 200 million in 1992 (comprising primarily trade in diamonds), bilateral merchandise reached US$ 5.19 billion in 2011.
Beyond business, defence and security relationship, cooperation in the agricultural sector—water management, research and development, sharing of best practices have the most on-the-ground impact, including in terms of building constituencies for Israel at the state level in India.
However there have been other differences between India and Israel as well, notably on Iran, Israel-Palestine crisis; the stalled free trade agreement negotiations; potential Israeli defence sales to China; renewed questions about defence acquisitions from Israel; or the behaviour of Israeli tourists in India. But the relationship is likely to continue to move forward, and increase in visibility, potentially before the 25th anniversary of the two countries establishing full diplomatic relations on January 29, 2017.
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