The dynamic has changed. Narendra Modi and the BJP have heralded a hitherto unseen bolstering of relations and the furthering of a prosperous friendship with Israel and it has been a long time coming.
The steps were at first tentative, haphazard and directionless under the misguided secularist socialism of the Congress party but now deal after deal finds common ground between the two most powerful democracies in the region.
Of course this closeness is rooted in business but flourishes from common ground and common aims but it within the last five years or so it’s the business end that brought the two together.
Take for instance the case of company Rafael which won a $1 billion contract in 2009 to provide India with surface-to-air missile systems, and along with other Israeli companies it has supplied New Delhi with an estimated $10 billion in military gear over the last decade, according to the Economic Times.
Israel now ranks second only to Russia as the biggest supplier of military equipment to India.
Any affront to the actions political standpoint of Israel in the past was steeped in symbolism rather than truth, it was a desire to placate disparate forces; instead now the newly elected government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blocked parliamentary votes to condemn Israeli actions and the relationship is based on mutual respect, strategy and practicality.
The Palestine issue to India was one of a reflexive solidarity but India has realised that this type of guileless posturing doesn’t solve threats to its borders, to its peoples, to the future prosperity of the country.
Working with Israel is the height of strategy and the numbers don’t lie.
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 mentioned 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.
It’s not just about defense and security though, there has been extremely useful cooperation in the agricultural sector—water management, research and development, sharing of best practices—and this has been coupled with economic ties with India and Israel negotiating a free trade agreement, and have been trying to encourage greater investments from the other. In that respect the country is seeking to “gain first-hand knowledge of Israeli technologies and expertise in the water sector — including desalination and urban water systems — and how these techniques can be implemented back in India”, this according to the Indian embassy in Israel.
The success of Indian and Israeli information technology companies has particularly led to interest in collaboration in that sector. Tourism is another mutual agree of cooperation with educational exchanges supplementing increased numbers of Indians arriving in Israel and vice versa, including thousands of Israelis visiting after serving in the IDF.
Of course security is a major concern with the Indian military planning to purchase Israeli radar systems to detect terrorists hiding in the dense forests along the country’s disputed border with Pakistan.
It also helps that PM Netanyahu and PM Modi genuinely respect and like one another. Netanyahu was among the first to congratulate Modi following his landslide victory in the 2014 elections. In September, 2014, the two Prime Ministers met at the UN General Assembly in New York. On that occasion, Netanyahu declared that the “sky is the limit” with India. Modi reciprocated a few months later, sending Chanukah greetings on twitter to Netanyahu in Hebrew. Last March, Modi again tweeted in Hebrew to congratulate his “friend Bibi” on his reelection.
The upsurge in global Islamic terrorism has meant the state of world has changed since India could afford to tip toe around the issue of respect towards Israel. It’s a flourishing relationship that’s unlikely to reverse in light of this.
Where has India’s previous support for the Palestinian question got it? India was and has been blocked at every turn from involvement in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. India is also disappointed by what it sees as the Arab world’s simplistic position on the thorny issue of Kashmir. “India has received no worthwhile backing from the Arab countries in the resolution of problems it faces in its neighborhood, especially Kashmir,” wrote Harsh V. Pant, a scholar of international relations at King’s College London. “There have been no serious attempts by the Arab world to put pressure on Pakistan to reign in the cross-border insurgency in Kashmir.”
Talking more about this relationship would take a few more articles given its depth and long lasting respect over the issues at play but it’s clear that this is a relationship created and fostered on respect and in light of a world dynamic that has changed beyond belief, India is proud to shake off its reluctance from the shadows and embrace Israel with the respect and pride it deserves.