On January 30, India and Israel marked 30 years of full diplomatic relations.
Evolution of India-Israel Relationship
- Political Relations- India recognised Israel in 1950 and full diplomatic relations were established after the opening of embassies in 1992.
- Prime Minister Modi undertook an historic first ever visit by an Indian PM to Israel in 2017, during which the relationship was upgraded to a strategic level and seven Agreements/MoUs were signed
- Trade- The bilateral merchandise trade stood at 5.65 billion dollars (excluding defence) in 2018-19, with the balance of trade being in India’s favour.
- Trade in diamonds constitutes close to 40% of bilateral trade.
- Potash is a major item of Israel’s exports to India.
- Indian software companies are beginning to expand their presence in the Israeli market and the first meeting of the newly established India-Israel CEOs Forum took place in 2017.
- Agriculture– India has benefited from Israeli expertise and technologies in horticulture mechanization, protected cultivation, orchard and canopy management, nursery management, micro- irrigation and post-harvest management.
- Israeli drip irrigation technologies and products are now widely used in India.
- A comprehensive Work Plan for cooperation in agriculture was signed in 2006.
- Agricultural cooperation between the two sides formalized through 3-year Work plans wherein 3-year Action plans are developed.
- Centres of Excellence have been constituted in Indian states.
- Defence & Security- India imports critical defence technologies from Israel.
- There is cooperation on security issues, including a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism.
- Since 2015, IPS officer trainees have been visiting the Israel National Police Academy every year for 1-week long foreign exposure training.
- Cooperation in S&T and Space– India-Israel cooperation in S&T is overseen by the Joint Committe on S&T, established under the S&T Cooperation Agreement signed in 1993.
- In 2017, an MoU for establishing India-Israel Industrial R&D and Innovation Fund (I4F) was signed.
- In 2017, space agencies-ISRO & Israel Space Agency- signed three agreements on space cooperation.
- Culture and Education– India is known in Israel as an ancient nation with strong cultural traditions, and India is an attractive, alternative tourist destination.
- Several courses related to India are taught at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and Haifa University.
- In 2013, India and Israel launched a new funding programme of joint academic research with the University Grants Commission and the Israel Science Foundation as nodal organizations.
- Indian Community– There are approximately 85,000 Jews of Indian-origin in Israel (with at least one Indian parent), who are all Israeli passport holders.
- In 2013, the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv facilitated the first-ever National Convention of Indian Jews in Israel that was held in Ramla.
- The Know India Programme has been effective in binding the Indian origin youth to India.
Issues that are hampering the bilateral relations
- Palestinian issue– India does continue to walk a tightrope, between its historical ties with Palestine and its newfound love for Israel.
- In 1988, when the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) declared an independent state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, India granted recognition immediately.
- India voted for Palestine to become a full member of UNESCO in 2011, and a year later, co-sponsored the UN General Assembly resolution that enabled Palestine to become a “non-member” observer state at the UN without voting rights.
- India also supported the installation of the Palestinian flag on the UN premises in September 2015.
- India supported the just Palestinian cause and the two-state solution in the UN Security Council on the Israel-Palestine violence in 2021.
- The first big shift in India’s policy came in 2017 when India in a statement dropped the customary line in support of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
- Even as it abstained at UNESCO in December 2017, India voted in favour of a resolution in the General Assembly opposing the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
- At the UNHRC’s 46th session in Geneva earlier in 2021, India voted against Israel in three resolutions and abstained on a fourth, which asked for an UNHRC report on the human rights situation in Palestine, including East Jerusalem.
- Pegasus issue- Pegasusis a spyware developed by NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that helps spies hack into phones.
- It was said that the Indian government used it to hack more than 1000 phone numbers.
- A case was filed in the Supreme Court accusing the government for indiscriminate spying.
- The company has said it sells the licence for use only to governments, and only after approval from the Israeli government’s Defense Export Control Agency.
New York Times reported that India bought Israeli Pegasus spyware as part of weapons deal in 2017.