The India-Israel Bilateral Relations: The Contemporary Gameplan

India recognised Israel on Sept 17, 1950 and permitted the establishment of a consulate in Mumbai but full official diplomatic relations were established in 1992. The reasons for delay were its support for anticolonial movements and its close ties with the Arab world. This year India Israel is celebrating their 30th anniversary of full diplomatic ties. They have launched a commemorative logo featuring Star of David and Ashoka Chakra symbolising strong friendship and admiration between two countries.

The political ties between India and Israel developed during the Modi government with the high level visit of PM Modi to Israel in 2017 which upgraded the relationship to strategic partnership. Israeli PM Netanyahu visited India in 2018. Previously MEA Jaswant Sinha in 2000, SM Krishna in 2012 and Sushma Swaraj in 2016 paid a visit to Israel.

On economic and commercial relations, the trade between India and Israel has increased from $200 million in 1992 to $4.15 billion in 2021 with balance of trade being in India’s favour.

The partnership between India and Israel improved after India started to unlink Israel-Palestine conflict from its relations with two parties. Comprehensive trade agreement is the need of the hour. India should use Abraham accord and I2U2 to expand its relationship at trilateral and multilateral levels.

Military and Security Initiatives: A Wider Gameplan

Laying significant emphasis on the prospective areas of cooperation and understanding, it could be said that wider strategic frontiers have opened, with regards to contemporary military developments. Israel has been a major player in developing Indian aircraft systems such as the Light Combat Aircraft(LCA) and the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), to name just a few. Furthermore, production of sophisticated surveillance equipment such as the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and the Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs) have consolidated the efficiency of Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) thereby strengthening joint defence endeavours, between the two partners.

Contextualising the new global strategic vision, it could be pointed out that a shared commitment of India to adopt a policy of “Defence Indigenisation”, or growing self-reliance on arms coupled with the objective of decreased arms import, has been the cardinal principle of India’s defence policy, accentuated by the geopolitical quantum of Indo-Israel military engagements, resting largely on arms trade.

Moreover, the recent extraordinary range of cooperation in terms of procurement and co-development of equipment such as missiles like Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missiles (LRSAM) and Medium Range Surface to Air Missiles (MRSAM), have led to the increase in accuracy and precision of high speed aerial targets.

Beyond Defence and Contemporary Developments

Lauding the Indian Government’s larger emphasis on military and industrial capabilities, Israeli companies have built bridges with the Indian private sector, leading to successful commercial collaborations, in the larger pursuit of shared scientific understanding.

Moreover, the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Rafael Advanced systems have established partnerships with MNCs like Tech Mahindra and Bharat forge to produce unique security systems. Another major endeavour remains manifest in the supply of various forms of ammunition such as artillery guns and mortar systems to the Indian military, from its Israeli counterpart. In the technological sphere, Israeli business houses have embraced productive technological solutions offered by Indian companies, for years, most notably in the electro optics industry, which has accentuated precision in Israeli nuclear endeavours.

The International Solar Alliance: An Indian Diplomatic Brainchild

With an endeavour to broadbase diplomatic discourse, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Former French President, Francoise Hollande put together the idea of the International Solar Alliance in 2015,comprising 124 nations, with the recent inclusion of Israel.

Reiterating India’s quest for a prosperous future with low carbon emissions and increased confidence in solar energy in the larger pursuit of environmental diplomacy, Former Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu remained certain that an active engagement with the ISA would help Israel embrace solar energy and constitute 25 per cent of the country’s energy supply by 2030.

Bearing this commitment, India has pledged a target of 175 GW of renewable energy and significant reduction of emission intensity by 33-35% by 2030, drawing on from the Paris summit that offered to bring 40% of its electricity generation capacity from alternative non-fossil fuel sources.

The promise of increased mutual cooperation in the sphere of science and technology in this forum, has consolidated wider diplomatic ties between the two.

Cooperation in Agricultural Endeavours

Based on Israel’s unique expertise in Agriculture, India and Israel have signed the Agreement for Agricultural Cooperation in 2006. This evolved into Indo-Israel Agriculture Project (IIAP), implemented by MIDH (Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture) and MASHAV –

Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. IIAP’s main Goals are:

  1. Increasing crop diversity
  2. Increasing productivity
  3. Increasing resources use efficiency

Within this framework, the State of Israel is contributing its best-practices and knowhow, and provides capacity building through professional training programs by MASHAV, conducted both in Israel and in India.

To achieve the goals of the cooperation agreement, it was decided to establish “Agricultural Centers of Excellence” (CoE), funded by both the Federal Government NHM and by individual State Governments, that are also responsible to allocate land and professional manpower.

Agricultural Centers of Excellence (CoE)

The Centers of Excellence provide a suitable platform for a rapid transfer of technology to the farmers.

The Centers of Excellence target both small and large farm holders, thus offering a wide range of agricultural practices in order to enable all to benefit from the new technologies.

  • Applied Research provides solutions to the farmers, mapping the challenges and adjusts the technology to local conditions.
  •       Field Extension Officers (SMS) the linking element between the applied research and the farmers.
  • Progressive Farmers are implementing the technologies demonstrated at the Centers and act as role models to other farmers.
  • Sustainability — IIAP is a self-sufficient platform in the aspect of HR, accumulated knowledge & operating capabilities.

Increased Cooperation  in the Water Sector

The 17th Everything About Water Expo 2022 was inaugurated today by Ambassador of Israel in India Naor Gilon in the national capital to strengthen the cooperation between Israel and India in the water sector and the longstanding ties between the two nations. Israel is the country partner in the event, which is taking place at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi from August 4-6.

Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Gilon said, “We are happy to bring 4 Israeli water experts as speakers in this Water Expo. They took part in a conference, where they shared their experience and technical know-how about advanced technologies and Israel-India partnership in the field of water. The visit of these water experts to India, to take part in this Water Expo, has further deepened the ongoing water partnership between our two countries.”

The experts shared their knowledge and expertise in a session about India-Israel water partnership and the session was chaired by the Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga, G. Asok Kum.

The four Israeli water experts who marked their presence during the event were CEO of Meniv Rishon Ltd, Israel, Sally Levy, Senior Deputy Legal Adviser of the Governmental Authority For Water And Sewage (IWA) of Israel, Tahel Brandes, Professor Hadas Mamane, Head,

Environmental Engineering Program and The Water-Energy (WE) Lab, School Of Mechanical Engineering, Tel Aviv University, Israel and Dr Lior Asaf, Water Attache, Embassy Of Israel, New Delhi.

Nuanced Co-operation in contemporary technological initiatives and culmination of startups: The Scalerator Initiative

In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Accenture, the Consulate General of Israel to South India, and NASSCOM have come together to jointly launch an Indo-Israel ‘Scalerator,’ an exclusive program that aims to enhance the collaboration between the Israeli and Indian startup ecosystems.

The program leverages the innate, complementary strengths of India and Israel. While India can benefit from Israel’s strength in emerging technologies, Israel can leverage India’s manufacturing and services capabilities, along with its huge software talent base. With its large domestic market and global capability centers of MNCs, India can help Israeli start-ups scale and can serve as a test bed for Israel’s tech innovation.

The Scalerator program is aimed at growth-stage Israeli start-ups having deep product/platform expertise in the new technology landscape, especially in the areas of Cyber security, Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation, Internet of Things, Big Data & Analytics, Blockchain, Extended Reality, Mobility and Quantum Computing.

Start-ups in the Scalerator program will be hosted at the NASSCOM Start-up Warehouse, as part of NASSCOM’s 10,000 Startups initiative. NASSCOM will provide and enable mentorship opportunities for the start-ups and involve them in market access forums consisting of industry events and customer engagements.

NASSCOM will also facilitate access to Open Innovation programs in India through which start-ups will have the opportunity to work with both Indian clients as well as MNCs with global capability centers in India.

Eligible start-ups will also earn access to Accenture Ventures’ Open Innovation program in India, having the opportunity to co-innovate with Accenture’s teams and develop innovative use cases to solve client business challenges. Eligible start-ups will gain access to Accenture’s global and India client base and the world-class Accenture Innovation Hub in Bangalore.

The Consulate General of Israel to South India will provide business development support to the selected startups from Israel and facilitate an understanding of the available funding channels.

The New QUAD : I2U2 ( India, Israel, UAE and United States)

The leaders of a new quadrilateral forum, comprising India, Israel, UAE and the United States met virtually for the first time, ever since its inception in 2011.

I2U2’s emergence can be attributed to rapidly growing cooperation among its member countries, with a boost from the 2020 Abraham Accords that produced normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab neighbors, including the UAE.

India’s move to join the US, the UAE and Israel in a new bloc reflected its keenness to take advantage of the Abraham Accords to deepen engagement with Israel without risking its ties with the UAE and the other Arab states.

Practical cooperation may prove sufficient to sustain I2U2. That said, an aspirational vision for the group’s core identity would not be all that difficult to find, given the striking religious diversity of its members.

By highlighting their shared commitment to pluralism and cooperation across faiths, I2U2 could become a venue for cooperation on a variety of other initiatives, and has accentuated dialogue at the global level, simultaneously providing sufficient room for regional co-operation at the individual level.

The Contemporary Cultural and Educational Landscape

Bound by vibrant cultural and academic ties, there has been a significant exchange of a wider spectrum of  ideas, practices and perspectives between the two nations.

Israel, remains the fifth attractive academic destination, for Indian students with more than 550 students at the post doctoral and doctoral levels.

In the religious sphere, the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv convened four annual conventions for Indian Jews in 2017, to facilitate a binding force of youth of Indian origin to India.

The Way Forward

The path ahead seems to be fraught with larger geopolitical opportunities, premised upon  an atmosphere of mutual affinity and shared cooperation. However, both India and Israel will have to get past the strategic vulnerability of prospective regional irritants and work together on contemporary issues of climate change, human rights and mental health. While a strong and proactive Middle East is the ultimate priority of India’s geopolitical landscape, to gain maximum benefits from its strategic alignments, Israel has to consider broadening dialogue, to seek Indian help and support on contentious issues and its larger conflict with Palestine.

[Photo by Prime Minister’s Office, India, via Wikimedia Commons]

Ainesh Dey is an incoming freshman at St Xavier’s College, Kolkata. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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