On 6 June 2017, under its Twentieth Anniversary Plenum Series, the IPCS hosted H.E. Mr Daniel Carmon, Ambassador of Israel to India, for a talk on '25 Years of Diplomatic Relations Between India and Israel and the Way Forward'.
Following are the introductory remarks and overview of the speech and discussion.
Ambassador (Retd) Salman Haidar
Indian Prime Minister Modi will shortly be visiting Israel. While there are many complexities influencing them, relations between the two countries have been galloping ahead in recent years. There has been increasing cooperation in various fields such as defence, agriculture, and technologies of different types.
'25 Years of Diplomatic Relations Between India and Israel and the Way Forward'
H.E. Mr Daniel Carmon
Ambassador of Israel to India
India and Israel share a very important, sometimes complicated, yet unique relationship. Israel has gained appreciation within the Indian society; Israelis do not take relations with India for granted and are grateful for this. India and Israel are celebrating 25 years of their diplomatic relations. Prior to this span of time, relations were deliberately kept under the radar to avoid diplomatic fallout with other states. Both countries have pursued common interests, values, and solutions based on their geopolitical situations.
At international fora during the Cold War years, Arab diplomats would exit the room when an Israeli counterpart was entering. Those days are gone and Israel has signed peace treaties with some countries in the region. Israel does not see binaries such as Arabs versus Israelis or Jews versus Muslims. Nowadays, any country can have good relations with Arab states and Israel simultaneously. This has been India's policy for decades.
India-Israel bilateral relations have become more enriching, with diplomats moving beyond traditional Ministry of External Affairs or Ministry of Foreign Affairs practices of exchanging notes or demarches. Now diplomats discuss agriculture, water, innovation, academia, people-to-people exchanges, and more.
India and Israel share a productive relationship in the field of defence. But ties should not be based entirely on this area. Collaborations are taking place between both countries' armies in research and development, and Israel is one of few countries engaged in the Modi government's 'Make in India' initiative in the defence field. Recently, we saw the inauguration of India's first private small arms production facility in Madhya Pradesh.
Israel's forte is not in big investments or infrastructure plans. It provides technological solutions through for instance, smaller start-ups and companies producing automotive technologies such as navigation and self-navigation. Israel is one of India's most important technological partners.
Israel can contribute to addressing challenges concerning agriculture in India. Israel helped India build over 15 'Centres of Excellence' for the rapid transfer of technology to farmers. Another area of engagement is water management. Having significantly improved its own water scarcity situation in recent years, Israel is ready to share its knowledge with India.
A visit by Prime Minister Modi to Israel would be of huge importance and centre around issues not only limited to defence. 'Make in India' is unfolding through ventures by companies in both countries.
In the past, Israel did not receive a warm welcome in Asia due to political reasons. Israel became more culturally and commercially connected to 'the West'. However, more recently, Israel has been able to expand its political relations in Asia, where India and China are important partners.
Israel's economy relies heavily on manufacturing and export industries. There are huge efforts by the Israeli government and businesses - including many mid-sized and small enterprises - to enter or re-enter the Indian market. Large Indian delegations have been visiting Israel recently, but there are some bureaucratic obstacles to deepening and expanding business ties between the two countries.
India's voting at the UN has always been important to Israel. Israel respects India's commitment to the Palestinian cause, as it does not contradict India and Israel's bilateral agendas. However, India is slowly but surely changing its voting pattern and would be displeased if another state raised issue with its internal conflicts in international settings. India has good relations with Iran, while Israel has a very clear understanding of the dangers Iran poses to the country and to the region by supporting terrorism. As such, Iran remains an important topic of conversation between India and Israel.
Israel's defence doctrine was set in the 1950s and has not fundamentally changed since then. Israel is geographically small and cannot afford to have a battleground on its own territory. Therefore, it requires robust intelligence, reconnaissance, and quick responses as counter-measures to security threats involving terrorist attacks, human shields, and people disguised using civilian structures to target Israel.
Relations between India and Israel are very important and strong in terms of defence, but go far beyond this in order to bring business to each side. As ties strengthen and visits occur moving forward, further areas of discussion between the two countries will bring them even closer.
Rapporteured by Sarral Sharma, Researcher, IReS, IPCS.