Israel and India in the post-Cold War era

It was under Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao that the full-fledged Israel-India diplomatic relationship was established in 1992.

Indian and Israeli flags. Image credit: India Opines

–Sarim Ahmed

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the second Prime Minister of the Jewish state to visit India. The first one was Ariel Sharon in 2003. Incidentally, then too the NDA government was in power. There is something very common between Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. If Benjamin Netanyahu is the first Prime Minister to be born after the creation of Israel, Modi is the first post-Independence Indian Prime Minister. They both belong to what is considered as rightist parties of their respective countries—Likud party in Israel and BJP in India. Incidentally both the countries have some similarities. Israel was ruled for the first twenty-nine years by the Labour governments i.e. between 1948 and 1977. India was ruled by the Congress party between 1947 and 1977. After that, both Labour in Israel and Congress in India got weakened. Benjamin Netanyahu, unlike former PMs Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon etc, is not a reputed General of his country, though he too spent sometime in the Army. It needs to be mentioned that serving in the Army is compulsory for all non-Arab young individuals (males as well as females) in Israel.

The full-fledged Israel-India diplomatic relationship was established in 1992 when P.V. Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister of the country. It was he who initiated the decision to open diplomatic relationship with that country after 44 years of its creation. Before that there was just an Israeli Consul General in Mumbai. That was the time when Israel had started becoming flexible and even some Arab countries started having their ties with the Jewish state. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had signed the Camp David Agreement in 1978 with the then PM of Israel Menachem Begin, in the presence of the then US President Jimmy Carter. Both Sadat and Begin later received the Nobel Peace Prize. After that some more Arab countries started showing some signs of flexibility towards Israel. Israel too started thinking in terms of the two-nation theory. The then Prime Minister Rabin signed the Oslo Accord with the then Chairman of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat. That was the time when India started its diplomatic relationship with Israel. Today Israel is one of the leading arms suppliers to India. Besides, there is much scope of co-operation in diamond trade and agriculture sector.

Last year, Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. Before that, Pranab Mukherjee was the first President of India to pay a visit to Israel in 2015. In his five-day trip starting on January 14, he will visit New Delhi, Agra, Ahmedabad and Mumbai. In Mumbai, he will visit the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Chabad House where terrorist attacks took place on 26 November, 2008. In Ahmedabad, he along with Narendra Modi will take part in a road-show.

Though India and Israel now have a very cordial relationship, yet there are some areas of disagreement between the two countries—for example on Iran-related issues, the relationship between Israel and China and India’s stand on the status of Jerusalem.


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