India & Israel Build Strategic Relationship
July 4, 2017 marked the first day that an Indian Prime Minister visited Israel. Vivek Raghuvanshi of Defense News describes the nature of the visit and what this means for the relationship between the two countries, as well as the region as a whole. Publicly, the reasons for the visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi are that of building a strategic partnership with Israel, but sources within India’s Ministry of Defense reported a deal to purchase 10 armed Heron TP drones and Spike anti-tank guided missiles for a total of about $1.9 billion is nearly finalized. Although this new “Strategic Partnership” consists of arms deals, much of this bilateral relationship appears to be focused on non-security areas as well. Water conservation, agriculture, and space exploration. While this current arms deal worth close to $2 billion may seem like a massive deal, this is not the first between Israel and India. Following resuming diplomatic relations in 1992, Israel sold over $10 billion worth of weapons and equipment to India. Israel was also responsible for supplying the howitzers during the Kargil confrontation in 1999 with Pakistan.
While Modi’s right wing government has more in common with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than previous Indian administrations, international visits after Modi was elected were apparently stalled due to the sensitive nature of the relationship between Israel and Palestine. An official from India’s Ministry of External Affairs was quoted on the subject saying “ A visit to Israel by Indian PM had been held back so far mainly on the Palestine issue and its attached optics with the Arab world, and New Delhi has weighed these very carefully before Modi’s visit to Jerusalem…The sensitivity of the Arab world, on which India depends for meeting its hydrocarbon needs as well as remittances from the Indians working in the oil-rich countries, has always been a critical factor in India’s engagement with Israel. So is the case with the sensitivity of the sizable Muslim community within the country,” This appears to be an extremely delicate, albeit calculated move on India’s part with the potential for building a constructive and valuable new relationship for the future. At present, there has been no significant backlash or condemnation from either Israel or India’s neighbors, but given the relationship is merely in its infancy, time will tell how this new bilateral relationship will effect the region.