This week saw the first visit to Israel by a sitting Indian Prime Minister in 75 Years. The visit coincides with the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Israel. During the 48 hours visit, Israel and India signed a series of agreements to cooperate in the fields of technology, water and agriculture. As a British born Indian working with innovative tech clients based in Israel and China, I have watched the week’s events unfold with particular interest and excitement.
The visit marks a huge shift for India, which has previously been closely aligned to the Gulf States and the Palestinian agenda. For the first time India is throwing its considerable weight behind Israel, proudly standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel as strategic partners.
What we are watching is the biggest realignment of global order since the Second World War. Modi stuck to Delhi’s line on the Palestinian issue: “India believes in a two-state solution in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully,” he said on Monday.
“A final-status agreement should respect the sentiments and address demands of all affected parties,” he added. So despite India’s close ties with Israel, it is not as if Delhi is going to ignore Palestine or the Gulf countries. Having said that, Modi’s less than diplomatic stance, shown by the fact that he did not visit the Palestinians, signalled a change in tact that directly contradicts the statement above – should he have made time to go to Ramallah? Or was the visit by the Palestinian President Abbas in May piecemeal to this move? Arguably he is being indifferent and focusing on his priority – the growth of India’s economy.
I thought it was particularly interesting listening to all the pundits discuss why the relationship between India and Israel works so well. Despite the obvious differences between the countries there are in fact many striking similarities. Culturally, the two nations share common values such as the importance of family, hard work, an entrepreneurial spirit and a certain joie de vivre. A strong and lasting bi-lateral relationship needs more, however, to be truly sustainable over the long term.
Here are five very good reasons why the relationship between India and Israel makes so much sense:
1) Defence – Israel is India’s biggest arms supplier. Israel has already signed on its largest deal in history: a $2 billion defence agreement (reportedly, $1.6 billion for Israel Aerospace Industries and $0.4 billion for Rafael, a state-owned defence company) from which India will purchase anti-missile systems and other components made in Israel
2) Technology and innovation – One of the key highlights of the agreements signed during Modi’s visit included the proposal to set up a $40 million India-Israel Industrial Research and Development (R&D) and Technical Innovation Fund
3) Water management – Israel recycles 85% of its water and has consistently shown its ability to be the world leader in water conservation, despite being a semi-arid region with limited sources of fresh drinking water
4) Ag-tech – With just fewer than nine million people to India’s 1.3 billion, Modi has been eyeing the ag-tech industry since Israel is leading in this area of technology development. Modi is determined to fulfil one of his priorities in India’s development. The two countries have agreed for India-Israel Development Cooperation – a three-year work programme in agriculture from 2018 to 2020
5) Space tech and space exploration – Both countries agree that space exploration is a mutual interest that can be pursued. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Israel Space Agency (ISA) also agreed for cooperation in atomic clocks.
Rajmeena Aujla is an Associate Director in the Corporate and Tech team at The PR Office.