PM Modi’s visit to Israel, Stand-off in Doklam Plateau Current Affairs 4th July, 2017DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
PM Modi’s visit to Israel
PM Modi is the first Indian prime minister to visit the Jewish state — the trip marks 25 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Indian and Israel. And for the first time, an Indian leader will not visit Palestine alongside.
- India’s political attitude towards Israel was set shortly after Independence, when Nehru and Gandhi vowed to support the Palestinian cause, and rejected the idea of two nations based on religion.
- It took about 45 years to unlock the relationship — India established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, days after the Chinese did the same.
- In 2000, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Home Minister L K Advani paid high-level visits to Israel.
- As defence and security cooperation picked up, in September 2003, Ariel Sharon became the first Prime Minister of Israel to visit India.
- When the UPA was in power, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna travelled to Israel in 2012.
- Modi met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA in September 2014 — the first such meeting in a decade.
- President Pranab Mukherjee travelled to Israel in October 2015 — the first visit by an Indian President. A number of Ministers and parliamentarians too have visited Israel in the past three years.
Significance of the meet:
With this visit of PM Modi the Indo-Israel relationship will overcome the hesitations of history, and a strategic and political direction for the bilateral relationship will be set. In a major shift in foreign policy, New Delhi is de-hyphenating Israel from Palestine and is prepared to deal with the two separately and independently. While Modi’s visit to Israel is historic, but his skipping Palestine is a tectonic shift. It can be seen as a transformation in India’s traditional pro-Palestinian positions.
Currently, trade between the two countries is modest—Israel’s trade with Turkey, hardly a friendly nation with a population 20 times smaller than India’s, is slightly more than its trade with India.
Over the last 25 years there has been an impressive jump in defence ties — India became Israel’s largest defence client at least a decade ago — which constitute one-fifth of the bilateral $5 billion trade. Israel returns the favour by giving India equipment that no one else would — including radar and communication equipment and the Phalcon AWACS which required US approval (given in 2003), thereby cementing India-US ties. India’s military ties with Israel are older. India had sourced Israeli weapons during the war with China in 1962 and later, during the 1999 Kargil conflict.
The PM’s oft-repeated phrase about India being a victim of terror has special resonance in Israel.
Cultural and academic links between India and Israel are poor and shamefully under-funded on both sides.
- For the long-term stability of the relationship, cultural links have to be strengthened. Many Indians aren’t familiar with Judaism. On the Israeli side, many youngsters now visit India after military service—but they see the country as a strange, exotic place. Hopefully, now they will also learn that India is a growing strategic heavyweight that has much to offer.
- Another important factor in bilateral ties will be the Indian diaspora. In Israel, members of the Indian diaspora have had limited success and, so far, no major impact on the India-Israel relationship. But this could be changing now due to India’s repeated invitation to its Jewish diaspora to play an active role in strengthening India-Israel ties.
- The government and industry should increase economic and trade relations as fast as possible. India’s big industrial conglomerates, which have a presence in every continent, must invest in Israel.
- Israelis would like India to take an even-handed approach towards its friend in international fora and perhaps stand up for Israel: Instead of abstaining, India could consider voting against anti-Israel resolutions at the UN; it could convince its non-Muslim neighbours to stop automatically supporting every anti-Israel UN resolution.
- India could play a calming role in the Middle East—for as its power advances, its voice will be heard more.