India and Israel established full diplomatic relations only 25 years ago but their ties are stronger than most
The reciprocal visit to India by Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu after Narendra Modi’s historic trip as the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel last year cements he strong relationship between these two nations, so alike yet so different. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit is the first by an Israeli Prime Minister since Ariel Sharon visited India in 2003. For a nation that shares such close ties with India, and is helping us take giant strides in the fields of counter-terrorism, technology and agriculture, these official trips are still too few and far in between. However, that is also an indication of the rather strange equation India has had with Israel since both nations were formed, Quickly after one another, one after a horrendous European war where in the Holocaust killed millions and the other drenched in blood by the Partition devised by colonialists in order to keep India down.
India and Israel had what could only be described as a complicated relationship; India, with its huge residual Muslim population post-1947 and politicians pandering to that vote-bank, became a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and did not establish ties with the Jewish state despite having recognizing it very early on in the latter’s existence. In 1971, as India went to war with Pakistan, none of India’s sup- posed allies in the Arab world came to India’s side. Anwar Sadat, the premier of Egypt, India’s long-time ally since the time of the Nehru-Nasser alliance, sup-ported Pakistan. However, Israel, with whom India did not have diplomatic relations, supplied India with arms. Golda Meir, the then premier of Israel did this despite angering Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger who shamefully support- ed Pakistan during the crisis despite knowing about the genocide in (then) East Pakistan. Yet, it was to take another two decades before India recognised Israel and 45 years since that war for an Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel.However, in the Quarter century since India has had full official ties with Israel, there has been more overt recognition of our common interests. This is not just in the area of counter-terrorism and defence but also in agriculture, irrigation and technology. Israel has supplied India with all sorts of high-technology equipment especially in the defence sector such as the Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and the Barak missile as well as modifying hundreds of MiG-21 fighter jets for us.
Israel has also recognised that India is a nation where Israeli technology is appreciated and Israeli policies welcomed. India, for some reason,has voted against Israel in several resolutions in the United Nations, most recently on the Jerusalem issue. This, despite the often overt, support given by Palestinian leaders to terrorists in Pakistan especially over the past 15 years. Days after India voted in the UN effectively con- demning Donald Trump’s decision to move the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Avw to Jerusalem, the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan appeared on a stage with terrorist mastermind Hafiz Saeed who is being sheltered by the Pakistani govemment much like it did Osama bin Laden. However, the Israelis are pragmatic about the vote and Netanyahu has understood the Modi government’s compulsions.
In agriculture and water technology, though, there have been massive strides with technology from a water-scarce nation like Israel dramatically improving yields for farming communities in several States across India. India’s ties with Israel are only becoming stronger and the hug between Modi and Netanyahu being mocked by those fishing for votes, is actually being celebrated across India.