After 70 years, India and Israel’s longing bromance is finally out of the closet

Published: July 7, 2017
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Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu walks with India's PM Narendra Modi, as they visit Olga Beach near Hadera, Israel on Thursday. PHOTO: TWITTER

It took a long time coming, 70 years to be precise, but perhaps it was inevitable. In the nearly seven decades, since the state of Israel came into existence, no Indian prime minister set foot in the country. 

But true to the unorthodox style that is revitalising Indian diplomacy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally corrected this longstanding anomaly with his trip to Israel this week.

The extraordinarily warm welcome Modi received illustrates how much his hosts wanted this visit to happen and how much it matters to them. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was effusive in his welcome address, using a few Hindi words and liberally sprinkling catchy acronyms, much like Modi does in his speeches.

Over the last 25 years, the relationship with Israel has emerged as one of the most important bilateral relationships for India, especially in the critical areas of security, water management and agriculture. The progress that Israel has made in these fields over the years has been admirable and India stands to learn a lot from the Israeli experience. Israel has also been a reliable supplier and has stepped in to provide key technologies and armaments during times of crisis, including during the Kargil conflict in 1999.

From the Israeli perspective, a strong partnership with a large country is invaluable. It is isolated in its neighbourhood and many countries walk a veritable tightrope when it comes to balancing their relationships with Israel and the influential Arab world. The full-fledged endorsement and support of India, a like-minded liberal democracy, becomes a source of great strength and legitimacy for Israel.

Furthermore, Israel needs economic partners to fuel its own growth and a massive market, for instance, India can absorb a lot of Israeli products and technologies, providing just the boost Israeli industry needs.

In addition, amidst the clear practical advantages of the relationship between these two countries, there are deep historical links as well. India’s shores have been a safe haven for Jews for centuries and they have had the freedom to practice and preserve their faith without facing the anti-Semitism that has followed the community everywhere else in the world.

Yet, despite all these obvious synergies, the two countries have largely kept their relationship very low key due to two major factors. First is the reluctance of generations of Indian politicians to antagonise its substantial Muslim population that plays a major role in influencing electoral outcomes in the country.

Secondly, India has been a little too conscious of Arab sensitivities and has chosen to bend over backwards to avoid offending them. These were indeed the underpinnings of the Nehruvian ideology that guided independent India’s worldview.

Starting with PV Narasimha Rao in 1991, India has gradually started adopting a more pragmatic approach in its diplomacy, and it was under him that India finally established formal diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, by which time several Arab nations themselves had established ties with Israel. Even then, India kept its relationship with Israel largely confined to the closet. There was a lot of cooperation, but with little fanfare.

PM Modi has articulated a significant departure from Nehruvian coyness in several matters, and his trip to Israel makes a strong statement about the direction he intends to steer India towards.

India is committed to the two-state formula and recognises the legitimacy of Israel as the home for Jewish people and a separate Palestine. It is also strengthening its relationship with key Muslim countries like the UAE and Iran on a more assured footing. Its growing economic strength and geopolitical importance allows it that space, which was earlier constrained by its dependence on oil imports for its energy needs and the large number of Indians who live and work in the region.

In a lot of ways, India and Israel are natural partners, and with its rapidly growing global profile, India can pursue this relationship more openly. The two countries face many similar challenges and the solutions that Israel has developed for addressing those challenges can be applicable for India as well.

Large parts of India are arid and agriculture is heavily dependent on erratic rains. Israel has pioneered several irrigation technologies that can help Indian farmers overcome this dependence. Similarly, Israeli companies have developed cutting edge technology in the field of IT and there is tremendous scope for joint Research and Development. The $40 million innovation fund that was announced during the visit is a reflection of the potential that exists in this sphere.

Security is another key area where the two countries will continue to expand their cooperation. In addition to weapons and related technology, there is a strong focus on counter-terrorism. Both India and Israel have been firmly in the crosshairs of Islamic terrorists and closer cooperation between the two can greatly strengthen their security architecture.

For India, decoupling its Israel ties with the deep relationship it has with the Arab world will be a major accomplishment and a mark of its maturing and self-assured diplomacy.

Both countries have emerged from a tumultuous past and still face severe existential threats in their neighbourhoods. Yet, despite being under siege, they have not just survived but have flourished while retaining their unique cultural essence in an environment of animosity and suspicion in their respective neighbourhoods.

Ultimately, as much as India and Israel need each other, the world also needs these two multicultural and inclusive countries to thrive. Indeed, the world will stand to benefit from the lessons these two have learnt in their own journeys.

Amit Nangia

Amit Nangia

The author is a learning and development professional with a background in finance and human resources that informs his commentaries on geopolitical and socioeconomic trends. He tweets as @amitnangia06 (twitter.com/amitnangia06)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Rafiq Ali

    We need to learn a lot from Israel. It’s a country so advanced in science, technology and all other field of knowledge. Whole of Muslim world cannot afford to fight militarily or intellectually with Israel. That is the bitter truth.Recommend

  • wb

    India must also stand for One State Solution. There cannot be a another state for occupying, aggression, warring, scheming, terrorizing, hating Muslims in the name of Palestine.Recommend

  • Vectra

    The fallen empire is now rising.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    @disqus_PngFpp2bex:disqus
    happy to see such a sensible comment. Israel is a country with 20% Muslim minority. They take care of their minorities well and all have equal rights. Israel is tarnished by vested interests. As far as Palestine is concerned, less said the better. Palestinians from west bank and Gaza are mortal enemies. These between blood brothers. You can never have a unified Palestine. There will be blood bath. Only Palestinians will die.Recommend

  • saad

    Isn’t Modi’s visit giving goose bumps to Arab States especially GCC countries? Or their ideology not to accept Israel is being compromised for personal interestsRecommend

  • Ahsin Sana

    i dont see any rational reason of publishing blog of an Indian citizen in Pakistani news website despite the fact that he blatantly termed Kashmiri Freedom Fighters and Palestinian Freedom Fighters as Islamic Terrorists, it seems either Editor didnt read the article by himself or its intentional.Recommend

  • wb

    GCC countries are weeks away from recognizing Israel. They’ll have to.

    Understand this, before Islam came into existence, all of Middle East belonged to Jews and Pagans. Meccah and Madina were Jewish cities with sprinkles of Pagans and Christians who lived side by side peacefully. And there was not a single Muslim. This is a statistical fact.
    Recommend

  • Sane

    What is the rationale that Indian reads a Pakistani news website.Recommend

  • Zain Abidin

    What India does, Pakistan usually follows. Let see when Pakistan will recognize State of Israel. Behind the closed doors, specially during Musharaf Era, there has been talks between Israeli and Pakistani government officials, but kept in low key, where meetings had been held in neutral countries like Turkey. Such meetings were reported in Pakistani newspapers back in early and mid 2000’s. Current Government of Pakistan is too embroiled in domestic issues and JIT thing. Otherwise, this is the correct time to recognize State of Israel, many Arab countries have done it, and many more soon follow. We don’t want to be last in line. Plus, there is huge benefit, specially in Technological Cooperation in Advance Agriculture, Desalination Plants, Renewable Energy, and IT and even Defense fields in which Israel leads the way.Recommend

  • wb

    The rationale that Indian reads a Pakistani news website are below:

    Pakistan was created out of hatred for INDIAN who was not a MUSLIM, that resulted in 1 million deaths.

    Pakistan waged 4 wars against India and lost all of them.

    Pakistan sent terrorists for multiple attacks within India.

    Pakistan continues to support the Islamist terrorists of Kashmir.

    Are they enough? Or do you want me to start with Veena Maliks and Ramiz Rajas?Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    India needs to have oil independent economy for that. That would mean all electric vehicles and trains etc. Not possible at this time but may be in future. Till then, India needs oil, that too at cheap rate. For that to happen, it is important that we strike a balance. Any way, in coming months, there would be war between shias and Sunnis, a large scale one. The winner would have all oil.Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    In India, all non-muslims and majority of muslims too, have always supported and admired Israel. We all felt very sad and depressed in 1972 when 11 Israeli Olympic team members were taken hostage and killed by terrorists. Read here on the massacre:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munich_massacre
    Then in 1976, an Air France plane carrying 248 passengers were hijacked by PLO and taken to Uganda where non-isreelis were released and 94 Israelis and 12 Air France crew members were held hostage at Entebbe airport. PLO were demanding release of 40 terrorists held in prison in Israel in exchange for release of the hostages. The hostage situation lasted for 8 days. Israel conducted a daring raid. All hostages were freed with the exception of three who lost their lives in the operation.

    The Israeli commando team was led by Yonatan Netanyahu who was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu. The operation was originally named as Operation Thunderbolt but was renamed as Operation Jonathan, in memory of Jonathan Netanyahu.
    Read about this operation here:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Entebbe

    This was the first hostage rescue operation of this scale that any nation has carried out successfully. I was in India then and remember that we would be waiting anxiously to read about the hostage situation in the morning papers every day. When Israel conducted this daring operation and freed all hostages we all developed deep admiration for Israel.

    Now, here in USA, we have close family relations with Jews too and we would always support Israel and Jews. Back in India, even those days, we had muslim members in our distant family through marriages. Two of my distant cousins have married muslim girls and some girls in our distant families have married muslim boys. Never has there been any conversion and we had good relations with their families. Only thing I hate with muslims is their preachings and practices of conversions. Muslims who practice, preach and praise conversions will also be carrying hate for followers of other sects of muslims because the later is just an extension of the former.Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    Comment going on in social media in India:
    “Netanyahu and Modi got along well together because:
    Netanyahu is Jew and Modi is Gujjew”.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Killer of non-Muslims are not defined as freedom fighters. They are called JihadiRecommend

  • vinsin

    India should remove her commitment for two-state formula. Palestinians Muslims cannot demand third partition after getting Syria and Jordan. Even though I have lot of love for some of Palestinians Muslims but their demand is completely unjustified. Muslims should show a bigger heart and stop running for minorities blood. Be responsible majority.Recommend

  • Fruck Off

    Nice to see Indians discussing their country’s foreign policy as bloggers and micro-bloggers (in the comments section). The Tribune has clearly tapped a section of the Indian market that has expressed disgruntlement with their own free press. As India battles it’s own 4th pillar, Pakistani media can provide them the platform they need till the battle is over and there is no longer a diversity of views and freedom of speech in that country. It’ll take a couple of years because Indian civil society has always been, traditionally very strong but in due course all of that will change completely as it is already happening. At least Israelis have a free and independent judiciary and newspapers like Haaretz still exist. Only if the Indians learned that from them but oh, well.Recommend

  • Milind A

    Pakistan under Zia-ul-Haq already had clandestine relations with Israel. Zia had asked ISI to collaborate with Mossad, after he got wind of RAW-Mossad collaboration. As a security, Zia assured the Israelis that Pakistan will never interfere in the Palestine issue (though officially they may support it). Thus we see lip service from Pakistan to Palestinians, but haven’t found any Pakistani involved there (compare this with Pakistanis found fighting in Bosnia or Kashmir or any other such hotspot).Recommend

  • Milind A

    The winner is going to be the West, no matter who (Sunnis or Shias) win. its always been the case.Recommend

  • Patwari

    The Butcher of Gujrat standing on the beach with the Homicidal Maniac.
    Two peas in a pod. Butcher of Gujrat kills Muslims and minorities in Hindia.
    The Homicidal Maniac, a Jewish Hitler, exterminates Muslims in the Holy Land.
    Both following in the Nazis footsteps.
    A Brown Hitler and a Jewish HitlerRecommend

  • Fareed

    Say, can you ask Lord Modi to send you to Remedial English classes?
    Does’nt look good for a BJP/RSS cyber warrior using pidgin English.Recommend

  • Hakimullah

    Without his stacked heels shoes on, Modi looks,…er…awful short.
    Just a finger breath above a pygmy.Recommend

  • wb

    For once, I agree with a Pakistani. Indian media is not free at all. Indian media like CNN, NDTV are all infested with Islamists and Islamist sympathizers.

    Believe it or not. Forget truth, even facts that I mention gets published by ET and NDTV blocks them all the time.

    Islamists are destroying India.Recommend

  • Patwari UK,Aus,Can,US,NZ,Ger,

    Anything else left in your preaching history lesson?
    Dig deep and see if can come up with anything about indiscriminate
    killing of men women and children by the Israelis. Using tanks and
    bombers to kill unarmed civilians. The Nazis did that in Poland, France…
    An embargo, where nothing is allowed from the outside to reach Gaza.
    Not even food and medicine. There is a blockade.
    Reminds you of Nazi Germany,…does it not?
    Just like a mini Hindustan in the Middle East. But 10 times more vicious.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Banarsi Mulla, [after claiming and giving himself a higher Brahmini caste] is now ‘wasping’ poetic on Hindia’s foreign policy.
    Sushmana Swaraghi, supposedly the Hindian Foreign Minister
    has smiled on Banarsi Brahmini.
    Guess she hired Banarsi Brahmini to be her spoke person.
    May Rama and his avatars bless Hindia and all the hindus.Recommend

  • Patwari

    There you go.The Banarsi Mulla,..er…Banarsi Brahmini is here with his gibberish.
    Say, are the Dalits slightly up on the Caste System from Untouchables?
    So sorry. Very sorry.Recommend

  • Patwari UK,Aus,Can,US,NZ,Ger,

    Huh? Wha?…Well,..see,..majority Hindians cannot read or write.
    So what is the point? They don’t even know what social media is.
    All they want is idlis and dosas. Nothing else.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Banarsi, did you see the Muslim hakim?
    There is one in Gandhipur, your village.
    Not far from where you live. Walking distance.
    He has his clinic/dawakhana in Nehru Chowk,
    just about a mile from your hut.
    He is right next to the Ramswami idli/dosa stand.
    Recommend

  • Patwari

    Trust a hindu to ruminate some pathetic gibberish about an
    issue he does not even understand. About par for masterless
    people.
    After 6,000 years of servitude to various invaders/conquerors
    and 1200 years of Iron Rule by the Muslims, the hindus are at
    a loss now. Nobody is in the driver’s seat..It’s chaos.
    No policies, no guide lines, no competent bureaurcrats, no nothing.
    Just a Chaiwala, known as the Butcher of Gujrat, sitting on the throne.
    The British Raj left 70 years ago. The Muslims got their own country,
    So now the hindus are running like headless chickens. nobody knows
    what to do. The new owners, Americans, have a lot of ongoing issues
    with their president. No time to govern Hindia.
    Hire the Queen to rule over you. 5 year contract. Renewable.Recommend

  • vasan

    This is not enough. Pakistani people are fed with lies and untruths about all the incidents and much more by their army and their government.. We Indians are trying to tell them truth thru this microblogs.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Indian media is owned and working for Anglos, Arabs and ISI. You will find more of Jihadi Wahabi Sunnah and utterly cultureless Sunny Leonah. Tribune is also controlled by NYT who stupidified common James and Janes. Social media is killing these lame/main stream media. Common man now knows common humanity of distant people. That is why, today America is becoming diversity celebrating Hindu http://www.newsweek.com/us-views-god-and-life-are-turning-hindu-79073 … almost decade back, an article in American main streamRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Jews are like Hindus. They lost their land and suffered genocide Recommend

  • wb

    Patwari, you’re totally confused.

    Butchers of Gujarat were 30 MUSLIMS who started the riots, are all rotting in jail. All though many more Butchers of Kashmir such as Burhan Wani and Hafiz SAeed are still alive and free.

    And all Maniacs and butchers in the history of universe were Musilms, my dearest.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Since both PM Modi and PM Sharif are around 5’7″ tall, are you saying that Sharif is ALSO “just a finger breath above a pigmy”!Recommend

  • Gp65

    Indian PM/Presidents do not live outside India when they are out of power (Benazir, Zardari, Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif and at one point Altaf who ruled Karachi from London for nearly 24 years). So they are not as enamored of foreigners as Pakistani leaders are, nor do they need foreign leaders.
    Compare rank in Human Development index, corruption perception index, Fragile state index, logistics performance index, tourism competitiveness index of both countries. It will become clear which of the 2 countries is better governed.Recommend

  • wb

    Fareed, my dearest, you do not know where to use apostrophe. The word is DOESN’T and not DOES’NT.

    And you really want to teach us Indians English?

    How about you become my student and I teach you basic humility, witticism, pun?!!Recommend

  • wb

    Patwari, are you getting Modi nightmares?
    Recommend

  • wb

    A lot is left.Recommend

  • wb

    But dearest, you’re untouchable to untouchables. Because you’re a Muslim.

    Recommend

  • Patwari

    Welcome back, mademoiselle, Long time no see. No fun
    dealing with your countrymen, with half YOUR intellect.
    With all due respect, what has the blog got to do with Banazir et all living in self imposed exile? Huh? Strange observation.
    Maybe the hindu politicians cannot get the visas? Well?
    Seems like nothing changed for you. Same old adoration
    for the Saffron Lord. All choked up, emotional, misty eyed
    when it comes to your idol, Modi Sarkar, also known as Jashodeben Chimenlal’s husband. [Among other unsavory names like Butcher of Gujrat, Ayodha’s Victor, Asian Hitler]
    Bet you took the Amtrak to Madison Square Garden to
    see your hero perform a Bollywood song/dance routine.
    This was 2 years back? Something like that.
    Heard he has a whining grating tenor. Nothing to write home
    about. Heard half the hindu women fainted when the Gujrati Elvis got on stage. Hope you did all right. You did not faint.
    Still,… you are beating Sadhvi Prachi and maybe, Mamta Bannerjee, hands down. in the hero worship dept.
    Heard the Chaiwala now has Mein Kampf on his bedside table. Reads half a chapter each night.
    Hey! Here is an idea! You can mail him a book by Bal
    Thackeray. Or say any pamphlets from Vishwa Hindu Parishad. They are available at 7-11 stores in Cruz’s state.Recommend

  • Patwari

    No. That is your twisted mind saying that.
    Sharif has a sour looking pudgy face. if you
    look in the mirror you will see it.Recommend

  • Sane

    All you said is baseless. We have a very long list about terrorism you wage in region and globally. Adding list of atrocities and killing of Muslims and minorities, raping women specially foreigners. Such a huge list that space for publishing will not be enough.

    At the end Pakistan was created whatever reasons, it is a reality now. Muslims and other invaders ruled you for centuries and centuries. Recommend

  • wb

    You rightly used the word baseless. Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Still waiting for you to give all of us the locations of those “14 Indian Consulates” you delusionaly claim exist along the Pak-Afghan border!!!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Hmm, killing of innocent women and children bother you, but not if done by Good Taliban proxies in region!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Hmm, let’s see, global terrorist Osama bin Laden found in ISI safe house in Abbottabad beside PMA, Pakistani LeT proxies launch Mumbai terrorist attack 26/11, Pakistani LeT and JeM proxies launch terrorist attack on Indian Parliment to start a war, Pakistani HuM proxies launch terrorist attacks in Kashmir, Pakistani Haqqani and Afghan Taliban proxies launch countless attacks in Afghanistan!
    Now WHERE is your “very long list” of Indian terrorism waged regionally and globally you claim to have????? HAHAHAHAHAHA!Recommend

  • Fruck Off

    I don’t know who you are but goddamn that was some next level shi…right there. Ufff. I’m done for the night.Recommend

  • Fruck Off

    As long as you guys get to let it all out online man, and not in real life. Nice to see the Pakistani press doing it’s bit in making that happen.Recommend

  • Sane

    Modi is found in India and incidentally as prime minister Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Wow, so thats your “very long list” of Indian Terrorism that you boasted about!
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!Recommend

  • Patwari

    You mean like RSS/BJP/Shiv Sena gangs of thugs
    roaming Hindu Desh cities and looting, robbing, lynching, Muslims, under pretext of Gau Mata worship/protection?
    Oh well,…that’s your hindu karma…..Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Anglos created first IS using House of Saud. It is known as Barbaria. Second IS they created after immense bloodshed, rapes and displacement of people, is known as Pakistan. Real home of ISIS is going to be Muridke.Recommend

  • wb

    Once again, I agree with you. We should start doing that in real life. Enough is enough. We should start giving Muslims a taste of their own culture. We should treat them exactly how they treat non-Muslims.Recommend

  • wb

    My dear, we BRAHMANS are masters of diplomacy and foriegn policy. You MUSLIMS are masters of…ahhh…masters of…shall I say death and destruction?!!!Recommend

  • Patwari

    Here is a partial list. Because the whole list will take
    a chapter or chapters. That’s how extensive RAW ‘s
    list of agents operating in Pakland is
    A short one here. They are all in Modi’s govt.
    Modi Sarkar,…Butcher of Gujrat. Primo.
    1..A very old man, Bopun Rowat, who makes dire threats
    against Muslims, he wears a funny hat. He is the hindu
    Army Chief. 2..Rajnath Singh a Muslim hater and killer.
    3..Arun Jaitley a thug class A, involved in the destruction of Babri Mosque. 4..Venkaiah Nadu, mainly operated as Modi’s
    henchman.5.. Manohar Parrikar, another Modi’s henchman.
    6..Amit Shah, a convicted killer out on bail. Helped Modi
    butcher Muslims in Gujrat. 7.. Sadhvi Prachi,..wanted all
    Bollywood Khans to leave Hindustan. Wanted all Muslims
    to convert or leave. 8..Uma Bharti,..you will be amazed as
    what she has done against Muslims in Hindia.
    9..Sushma Swaraj, a big time Muslim hater. Denied a visa
    to a Muslim woman seeking cancer treatment. This is how
    much she hates Muslim men, women and children.
    10..Yogi Adityanath, CM of UP. he wants a statue of Rama
    in every mosque. And his thugs will not allow Muslims to
    cast their votes. Obstruction of Muslim voting in UP.
    Happy?Recommend