Relations between India and Israel are strengthening based on growing security, trade and agricultural ties.
Since Israel and India established diplomatic relations in 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Indian-Israeli relations have rapidly improved. Today Israel is India’s second largest arms supplier after Russia. According to PR Kumaraswamy, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, “Growing military cooperation extends beyond arms sales to technology upgrades, joint research, and intelligence cooperation. Despite its possible implications for use against Iran, on January 21, 2008, India launched a 300-kilogram Israeli satellite into orbit.”
However, military ties between India and Israel are not the only aspect of Indian-Israeli relations that are thriving, for India is Israel’s eighth largest trading partner. As Israeli Ambassador to India, Alon Ushpiz, emphasized in the Indian Express, “India-Israel relations go way beyond defense.” Furthermore, the Indian and Israeli governments are discussing the implementation of a free trade agreement. Ambassador Ushpiz told the India Times, “Our estimation is that the volume of trade will go up by billions of dollars once we have a free trade agreement. I think it is important for both governments and for both negotiating teams to look at the immediate obstacles, but also to look at the potential of what we will achieve once we have a free trade agreement.”
There is already a three-year agricultural agreement in place where Israel assists Indian farmers. “We are providing technologies and know-how. Our focus is on training the trainers,” Daniel Carmon, head of Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, told The Hindu. Israel is in the process of setting up 28 agricultural training centers in 10 different Indian states, of which eight are expected to be operational by the end of 2013. Prior to this, an Israeli professor has helped India save one of their polluted rivers.
A HISTORY OF INDIAN-ISRAELI RELATIONS
Although India did recognize Israel as a state in 1950, India did not have friendly relations with Israel until 1992. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and previous political alignment with Arab nations, India chose to normalize relations with Israel recognizing the Arab world and the Palestinians favored Pakistan over India. “What have the Arabs given us, if I may ask? Did they vote for us in the Kashmir issue? Were they supportive of us when we had the East Pakistan crisis (1971)?,” J.N. Dixit, then foreign secretary of India, stated in a January 1992 interview, shortly after the normalization of relations with Israel.
India and Israel both face terrorism from Islamists and have problems with segments of their Muslim minorities who have been radicalized. This common threat has led in part to the flourishing of Indian-Israeli relations that exist today. As Ambassador Ushpiz said, “Both countries share a moral set of values” and “believe in democracy and freedom of speech.”
By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United with Israel