India and Israel both are heading towards general elections and on both sides, some great debates on hits and misses of current leadership are going on. Interestingly, for both Modi and Netanyahu some of the crucial diplomatic wins and courageous economic reforms are the key highlighting elements on their report cards while the opponents of both are making intense attempts to make corruption a center point before the public. The dilemma of the vibrant democracies is that a right-wing government most of the times bear the pressure from both left as well as the right and the proportion of unsatisfied responses is usually high. Sustaining the high expectations throughout the whole term is a good sign for the health of the democracy as these expectations push a true leader to do more all the time.
Undisputedly, on economic and foreign policy fronts, both leaders have a lot to count on as an achievement. An accelerated status of India-Israel partnership and particularly the upward trajectory in relations which started with the historic visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel can be seen as a mutual diplomatic win.
In 2019, with the new term of the governments on both sides, a new chapter of India-Israel partnership will start. In this new phase, whose foundation is solid than ever before, merely a continuation of existing patterns would not be sufficed. There is an opportunity to transform this partnership whether in defense or in agriculture, into a global alliance and for that, this time the private sector will have to take the lead.
In India-Israel relations, there is an unwritten norm that always starts the discussion with an emphasis on ‘shared philosophy’ and ‘shared values’ etc. and then move towards activities which need to be done. But sometimes too much focus on ‘commonalities’ reduces the level of urgency requires for the next push. There is a need to sort of reverse this trend so that the focus should be first on maximizing the activities/improvisations and let the philosophy take a back seat.
‘Reform, perform, and Transform’ is the success mantra of Transforming India. India’s fast-paced transformation is a matter of discussion among the world community. This mantra of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recovered Indian economy from the stage of policy paralysis and pushed those same processes, same institutions, and same stakeholders to cooperate for the larger goals of the leadership. After yielding remarkable results consistently for four and a half years, now this mantra is a tested approach.
For charting out the roadmap of the next phase of India-Israel partnership, the ‘Reform, Perform and Transform’ mantra can prove helpful. Reform is the base of both countries’ transformation. Both leaders’ courageous economic reforms and a fresh approach to diplomacy sometimes make even their fellows a little bit uncomfortable but the end results always prove that the hesitations to taking a bold move were unnecessarily exaggerated.
A reformative perspective can end the unnecessary hesitations of India-Israel partnership too. It’s a fact that the existing cooperation frameworks of both countries whether in agriculture or defense, are not perfectly aligned with changing realities of the time. At a time, when the governments are ready to push the boundaries, the cooperation frameworks should encourage the private sector to think beyond established norms too. There is a need to introduce some reforms in the current approach of collaboration to provide more space for private sector players of both sides. A channel of regular dialogue can be set up which allows the best minds to hunt for opportunities together. In the last two years, on a similar concept, some initiatives have been launched such as India-Israel CEO forum and India-Israel Innovation Bridge but the scope of their activities needs to be enhanced. A reformative approach will encourage the different stakeholders to perform to their best abilities possible and will ultimately lead this partnership into its desired status.
It is worth mentioning that the newly appointed Israel Ambassador to India, Dr. Ron Malka has initiated on a right pitch. A few days back under his leadership Israel’s ICL (Israel Chemical Ltd) signed a five year MoU with India’s IPL (Indian Potash Ltd), which can be seen as a new improvisation in agriculture cooperation which seems more aligned with the doubling farmer’s income goal of the Indian government. Such kind of private sector partnership between the agri-business vendors of both sides can open up new avenues of growth.
The economic as well strategic dividends that defense cooperation offers are numerous. India is at a crucial juncture of its journey towards self-reliance in defense production which started primarily with imports, then gradually progressed towards licensed production from the 70s, took substantial form in 80s and 90s and now the focus is on indigenous design, development, manufacturing and export capabilities. Rather than limiting the scope of defense cooperation to the traditional approach it would be appropriate for Israel to improvise creatively. This time, the focus should be more on maximizing the numbers of private sector joint ventures and joint R&D hubs. The efficiency of supply chains which India’s strategic location offers is an adequate reason for Israel to consider “Make in India, Make for India, and supply to the world from India” opportunities more seriously, and to act on this.
These three keywords of ‘Reform, Perform and Transform’ can help in giving the right shape to the future roadmap of India-Israel relations.