India-Israel Ties:’A Marriage Made in Heaven’
- January 29, 2018
- Posted by: admin
- Category: General Knowledge
Recently, the news was abuzz with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India. It was momentous for several reasons, including the fact that it came close on the heels of India’s vote in favour of a “two-state” solution for Palestine, out of line with what Israel expects. Still, the visit played out with positive undertones and can be seen as the emergence of a strong multi-faceted partnership, including defence and agriculture.
India’s position on the establishment of Israel was affected by several factors, including India’s own history of Partition on religious lines, and India’s relationship with other nations. India also had a sizeable population of Muslims, that was traditionally opposed to creation of Israel on Palestinian land.
India formally recognized Israel post-independence in September, 1950. At the same time, India’s policy was based on the principled stand of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and international approach on issues aligned with its domestic needs. Some have observed that politicians in India were afraid of losing their votebanks if relations were normalized with Israel. Furthermore, India has a large diaspora living and working in the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, and India did not want to jeopardize these citizens, who, in turn, were also helping India maintain its foreign-exchange reserves. India was also dependent on the Arab nations for oil supply to meet its energy needs.
The Non-Aligned Movement that emerged in the 1950s, with India playing a major role in it, further prevented India from taking any pro-Israel stance openly.
It was only in 1992 that India finally established full diplomatic ties with Israel, that too, after taking Palestinian President Yasser Arafat into confidence. The Israel-Palestine peace process was at an advanced stage then. There was also pressure from the United States. Some opine that post-1991 economic reforms comprising liberalization, privatization and globalization, India needed a global interface for its economy as well as new markets to meet its defence needs once the USSR collapsed.
Pillars of Cooperation
India’s relations with Israel rest on three main pillars, and the scope of cooperation is only expanding with time:
• Defence- India is one of the biggest importers of defence equipment and Israel has become one of India’s major partners in this segment. By 2000, India started acquiring surface-to-air missiles Barak-8 and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from Israel. The refurbishing of MiG-21 aircraft also deployed Israel avionics. Israel recently sold to India the Phalcon airborne early warning system (with US concurrence) and mounted on the Russian II-76, provided Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACs). Israel was one of the main suppliers for India during the Kargil war with Pakistan. This stamped Israel’s reputation as a strong, stable supplier, even in times of conflict. At present, India is already selling India an average of $1 billion per year in military equipment.
In terms of cooperation in military exercises, the Indian Air Force (IAF) participated in a multilateral exercise, Blue Flag-2017 at Uvda and Nevatim AFB, Israel from November 5-16, 2017. The IAF contingent included 1 x C-130 ac and 45 personnel including Garuds. DG Air (Ops) attended the Distinguished Visitor’s Day of the exercise at Uvda and Nevatim AFB, Israel on November 14, 2017.
• Agriculture- In 2008 the India-Israel Agriculture Project (IIAP) was launched. It is aimed at setting up specialized agriculture centres across India. The IIAP is a three-way collaboration between the Israel government, the Indian government and a state in India. There are Centres of Excellenc (CoE) some proposed and some already operational, to share technical expertise and encourage cooperation for specific crops or plants. Most of the centres are focused on providing know-how on best practices, seeds, farming practices to enable growers in the region to improve their yields, and augment their incomes. Furthermore, India, where much of agriculture is dependent on the monsoon and irrigation facilities are widely variant across regions, Israel’s drip irrigation model is one to go by and is already popular in India. Israel is also helping India adopt hydroponic farming in a big way. Hydroponic farming is the system of growing food in water without the use of soils. Uttarakhand will develop four hydroponic farms – to be known as ‘Kamalphonic’ (as lotus is also naturally grown on water)- on experimental basis with the help of Israel to promote aqua farming in the hill state. The irrigation department has already began work to create infrastructure for the four farms in Dehradun, Pauri, Chamoli and Almora districts. As per experts, it can help hill farmers get better yields in terms of quantity as well as quality. The region has small land holdings in hill areas and hydroponic farming can support farmers take up vertical cropping with water storage facilities on the base of every stair. The irrigation department would create and maintain the hydroponic farms as a pilot project to help the agriculture and horticulture departments to take up and promote the new pattern of farming especially in hills, where size of farmland was small and per unit area yield was low.
• Water- Being a water-challenged state itself, Israel recycles 90% of its water and 95% of sewage is processed for agricultural use, making it a virtually closed water cycle. An Israeli company was awarded a project to clean a part of river Yamuna recently. On his most recent visit, the Israeli Prime Minister presented his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, the Gal-Mobile water desalinisation and purification jeep the two leaders rode on Israel’s Olga beach in 2017. The Gal-Mobile is an independent, integrated water purification vehicle, designed to produce high-quality drinking water. It can be useful during natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, for military use in difficult terrain and in rural areas to provide potable water. It can purify up to 20,000 litres per day of seawater and 80,000 litres per day of brackish/muddy or contaminated river water and bring it to WHO standards.
India-Israel relations are very much like a match made in heaven, where there are complementary needs and expertise. Perhaps this is the reason for which, in spite of setbacks in the form of a cancelled defence deal (the Spike deal) and the Palestine vote in the UN, India and Israel are forging ahead. Also, it is a clear indication of a de-hyphenation of India’s relationship with Israel and Palestine, engaging with two rivals separately and on mutually beneficial terms.