With India’s Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi taking over the reins of governance next week, the already growing bonhomie between New Delhi and Jeruslame is prone to assume a quantum leap. One could easily discern this possible development in the conversation Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu had with Modi immediately after the latter led his party to a landslide victory in India’s recent parliamentary election.
Reports are that when the Israeli premier dialed to congratulate his incoming Indian counterpart on his success, Modi expressed his desire to “deepen and develop” ties with Israel. Netanyahu has been quoted as saying his cabinet, “ I spoke with the Prime Minister-elect of India. There, too, there is a clear expression of the desire to deepen and develop economic ties with the State of Israel.”
According to knowledgeable sources, India’s Prime Minister-designate is keen on fostering stronger ties with the Jewish state. He has already been one of Israel’s best friends in South Asia. In his capacity as Chief Minister of Gujarat during the past 13 years, he courted political and trade links with Israel and earned a financial bonanza for the state. Gujarat today is a highly industrialized region of northwest India.
One of the reasons for this success story is that under his leadership and encouragement, Israel has poured billions of dollars of investment into the state. Officials from both Gujarat and Israel have visited each other deepening trade and economic links. The ongoing mutual endeavors include projects in agriculture, industrial research and development, solar and thermal power, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, water recycling and water desalination plants. In January this year Jerusalem announced the establishment of a joint technology fund with India. This fund will help both Israeli and Gujarat based companies in developing and strengthening the industrial relationship.
The sources say that as India’s Prime Minister, Modi would like to carry his success story of the state to the Nation as a whole. Fortunately, There is a near consensus across the Indian political spectrum on boosting Indo-Israeli co-operation. Congress Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao established full diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Jerusalem in 1992. Since then, cooperation between the two capitals has considerably expanded in different fields, including defense, intelligence and counter-terrorism, economy, science and technology and agriculture.
Israel today is India’s second largest arms supplier after Russia. India recently purchased 15 drones from Israel in an effort to boost security along its borders with Pakistan and China. Israel’s military industry firm today has also plans to establish five factories in India for the production of artillery shells.
Initially the relationship between the two countries was a simple buyer-supplier relationship, with India would buying some of the Israeli advanced weapons systems and technologies. Later it developed into the formation of joint Indo-Israeli military ventures for the development of specific weapons systems and technologies.
Indo-Israeli ties have improved a lot in other areas as well. In 2008, Indo-Israeli trade stood at over $4 billion. It has now increased to about six billion dollars ranking India as Israel’s second largest Asian trading partner after China. The diamond industry is Israel’s main trade area with India. The two nations are negotiating a free trade agreement. This is expected to triple the volume of the bilateral trade.
Cooperation between the two nations has involved joint research and development projects in telecommunications and software. In August 2012, India and Israel signed a $ 550 million academic research program. In January 2008, India launched Israel’s most advanced 300 kilogram satellite into orbit. In April 2013, the Tata Industries signed an agreement to make a $5 million anchor investment in Tel Aviv University’s tech transfer company Ramot in engineering and exact sciences, environment and clear technology, pharmaceuticals and health care.