*Shahid Raza Khan
India has shown an active involvement in the Israel-Palestine conflict since its inception and has always supported the Palestinian cause. The two states plan proposed by India in the UN describes India’s historic position on the issue. It did not recognize the state of Israel in the Palestinian land until 1950 and the diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in 1992, when the BoP crisis forced India to compromise on different economic and political levels. Seen from this perspective, India’s constant move towards Israeli friendship is in contrast to its long historical position. In contrast, Israel has always tried to develop cordial relations with India for the later has a significant impact on Israel-Palestine conflict. India is an important international actor and a significant Asian country. For its recognition, Israel has always tried to develop friendship with India and finally got the Indian recognition of the state of Israel brokered by the USA. What did India achieve and can achieve in future by taking almost a U-turn from its historic stand on the issue?
Indo-Israel rising military relations can be seen from the security perspective. India has been and continues to be a net importer of arms and defense equipments. Though, the Israeli arms export to India is on constant increase, Russia still holds the first position with 65 percent arms and defense equipments imported by India. Still Israel accounts for only 7 percent of India’s arms imports. India, currently, is the largest importer of arms in the world, which means that arms industry of India is still not mature enough to fulfill its domestic requirements. Recently with the Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Israel, India signed the agreement to collaborate in combating terrorism. After the formation of BJP government at center in 2014, the ties with Israel has risen to the heist level in the history with some of the major agreements in the field of military and security fields. Israel Aerospace Industry signed a deal with Indian Army and Navy in April 2017 to supply with advanced air defense system worth $2 billion. Mr. Modi’s security service recruited 30 dogs from Israel in May 2017, trained to attack, sniff for bombs, drugs and track criminals. These deals are more favorable for Israel than India. Israel arms industry plays a major role in the state economy, and hence any decline in the sale of its products would directly affect its economy.
One major dimension of this relation is that while Israel is exporting its arms to India, it is not ready to share the necessary technological expertise with it to maintain India’s position as a net importer of Israeli products. Better friendship with India is always in favor of Israel, as in July 2015, India abstained from voting in the UNHRC that approved Gaza Commission Inquiry report- forty one countries voted in favor of the report, while India was among the five countries which abstained. During his visit to Israel, the Prime Minister Modi willfully ignored the Palestinian cause and did not visit Ramallah.
India’s rising relations with Israel is an evidence of the changing policy of its engagement in the region especially with regard to the Arab-Israel conflict. From the position of a mediator and supporter of Palestinian cause, India is moving towards the Israeli side. The upcoming visit of the Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Nitanyahu from 14-17 of this month is a step from Tel Aviv towards more cordial relations with India. This is going to affect its relations with the Arab states in long run. India has its interest in the region connected more with the Arab states than with Israel in the fields of energy requirement, incoming remittances from Gulf States, and security concerns. India should engage itself with the Arab world for its security concerns if it has to combat terrorism and check the radicalization of youths. Gulf States are the main hide out for the criminals wanted in India. Hence it becomes imperative for India to engage with them in order to bring them to book.
The recent stand of New Delhi on the shift of US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a welcome move and India needs to be very cautious in dealing with Israel. Pakistan and China are other factors that India should not ignore while going closer to Tel Aviv. Israel maintains cordial and long term relations with these two countries.
*Shahid Raza Khan is a research scholar of West Asian Studies at School of International Studies JNU New Delhi, currently working on Western discourse on Political Islam.