History of the India-Israel Relations
Diplomatic relations between Israel and India were fully established in 1992 despite attaining Independence from the British Empire within a year apart. Cold war politics had a lot to do with the initial frosty relations between India and Israel. India was part of the Non-Aligned movement while keeping a close relationship with the Soviet-bloc and by proximity to the Arab world., while Israel was an ally of the United States and NATO.
When the Cold War began to thaw in the 1980s, so too did the relations between the two nations beginning with a flurry of bilateral activity, this was demonstrated when Israel provided intelligence during the Kargil conflict in 1999 and provided disaster relief during the 2001 Bhuj earthquake. With the establishment of full diplomatic ties, both countries have benefited immensely. India is one of Israel’s premier trading partners. Trade and cooperation between the country now center on security-related deals and aid in the agriculture and water desalination areas.
Israel has sold radar and surveillance equipment for military application and it also gives counter-insurgency training to India’s anti-terror forces. India-Israel cooperation increased dramatically in 2014 with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Between Modi’s election in May 2014 and November 2014, Israel exported $662 million worth of Israeli weapons and defense items to India.
This export number is greater than the total Israeli exports to India during the previous three years combined. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made the first-ever official visit of an Israeli Defense Minister to India in February 2015.
On May 10, 2017, three warships from the Indian navy docked in the port of Haifa, ahead of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s scheduled to visit during the Summer. The ships, the INS Mumbai, the INS Trisula, and the INS Aditya, participated in a Naval drill with the Israeli navy when they entered the port.
In wake of the strained relationship with China, India announced plans in July 2020 to purchase additional weapons from Israel. The defense ministers of both Israel and India have discussed strengthening bilateral ties where there was interest expressed in encouraging greater participation of Israeli defense companies in the Indian defense sector
Collaboration in Agriculture
The two nations in 2008 started an agricultural fund worth $50 million that focused on dairy, farming technology, and micro-irrigation. This constituted the Indo-Israel Agricultural Project. By March 2014, 10 centers of excellence operated throughout India offering free training sessions for farmers on efficient agricultural techniques using Israeli technological expertise. Vertical farming, drip irrigation, and soil solarization are some of what is taught at the centers. Farming at these centers focuses on mangoes, tomatoes, pomegranates, and citrus fruits.
Investments to boost tourism, education and cultural ties and building bridges with the Indian diaspora in Israel can help significantly in this context. Indeed, these are the low-hanging fruits in the bilateral relationship that can be plucked right away. Taking cues of Israel’s industry-academia ecosystem, its innovation and start up culture and the state of art cutting edge technology across sectors; India can build mutual collaborations for present and future development. Tapping each other’s potential should be the imperative in the new “Strategic Partnership” to truly make “India-Israel is a match made in heaven”!