By meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has recognized how important Tel Aviv is to New Delhi. Modi and Netanyahu met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The two countries have an old association. And as Modi pointed out, Jews, who settled here, were never persecuted. Although Israel had come to India’s aid in the past, New Delhi had close relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and it was only in 1992 that diplomatic contact was formally established. Thereafter, Israel has established itself as a major trade partner, providing vital defense equipment to India, as well as cooperating on other security matters.
The BJP’s reluctance to condemn Israel in Parliament for the assault on Gaza has shown the new government’s inclination towards improving ties with Israel. During the meeting Modi sought more Israeli investments, especially of the kind that would be a part of the “Make in India” program. India is also keen to get cyber security expertise, agriculture, water management and solid waste treatment in urban areas.
While Israel and India both seek to thwart terrorists, they have a different approach and focus. Battling with the ISIS is the main concern of both the US and Israel right now, whereas India is more focused on Pakistan-based terror groups. Such differences are natural and the two countries have their own priorities in West Asia. In fact, India has a longstanding relationship with many countries that are inimical to Israel, including Iran. Indo-Israeli relations have never been showy, but they have deepened as both counties have demonstrated mutual respect and increased cooperation. Even as the increase in economic ties is on the card, New Delhi will need to tread cautiously in the diplomatic minefield that West Asia is. South Block will need to keep a firm focus on maintaining its traditional ties with Arab nations, even as it improves newer alliances.
(The Tribune, Chandigarh)