Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute discusses how India came to rethink its relationship with Israel.
Today, as reflected by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's high-profile visit to India in January, and by PM Narendra Modi's visit to Israel last July, the Asian giant that once treated Israel as a diplomatic pariah has made a strategic U-turn.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a historic visit to India to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between the two nations. During this visit, India and Israel have signed nine agreements including Memorandums of Understanding in the fields of gas, oil, renewable energy and cyber security. In addition, agreements were signed for a joint industrial research and development deal and an update to an aviation agreement, as were agreements in health and space exploration.
How do other countries handle security at sensitive holy sites? In Mecca there are more than 5,000 CCTV cameras and over 100,000 people employed to provide security during the annual Hajj. Like Israel, Saudi Arabia faces terrorist threats and has upgraded its security in recent years.
The recent two-day visit of Narendra Modi to Israel, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister, has been depicted as heralding a new strategic partnership between New Delhi and Jerusalem. Indeed, simply by taking place at all, it represented an upgrade of the relationship.
After nearly a quarter century of diplomatic ties, Israeli-Indian relations have come of age.
The UN Human Rights Council closed out its 29th session on July 3 by passing its 62nd resolution against Israel, more than it has passed for every other country combined. This resolution, in which the Council adopted its Commission of Inquiry's misleading Gaza report, saw ‘yes' votes from 41 of 47 Council members, including countries Israel has traditionally considered allies such as Germany and France (although there may have been tactical considerations behind the European vote.) The sole ‘no' vote came from the United States, and five countries abstained, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Macedonia, and Paraguay.
But Israel saw perhaps a surprising diplomatic victory in the fifth abstention: India.
Last month saw the biggest electoral victory in India for 30 years. Narendra Modi, a proven state Minister and the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ousted the Congress Party on the promise of major reforms to revive the Indian economy, despite controversy over his role in ethnic violence in Gujarat state in 2002. The victory and the record 66.38% voter turnout have been attributed to the ‘Modi effect' and widespread support for a candidate previously dismissed by many pundits.
As India and Israel celebrate their 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, the number of cooperative ventures between the countries are expanding at an accelerating pace.
This week, Israel and India entered a fifth round of talks towards the creation of a much-anticipated free trade agreement.
Meanwhile, on July 31, Israel's Consul General in India Orna Sagiv spoke before a large audience in Bangalore ahead of Israel's opening next month of a Indian consulate in the city - India's third most populous - joining Israel's other consulate in India's most populous city, Mumbai, and its embassy in New Delhi.
Dr. P.R. Kumaraswamy, Professor with the Centre for West Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, spoke to community members at an AIJAC event on July 16 about India's relations with Israel.
Professor Kumaraswamy, who has made Israel the focus of his academic career since 1982, noted that while India recognised Israel in 1950 and privately expressed interest in establishing diplomatic ties in 1952, it took four decades before formal ties were established in 1992. India's decision to establish relations when it did was a response to the changing global realities ushered in with the end of the Cold War. "Normalisation [with Israel] was an Indian message to the outside world: ‘The world has changed, the Cold War has ended, [and] I am reacting to the world with a significant measure.'" Furthermore, he noted, India recognised that for any country with a serious interest in promoting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, normal relations with Israel are a necessity.