Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes a landmark visit to Israel, first ever by an Indian Prime Minister.
India has been pursuing a cautious approach towards Middle East. Successive governments refrained from embracing Israel as India heavily depends on the Arab nations for its hydrocarbon supplies. Besides, India has been the most vocal supporter of the Palestinian struggle for freedom.
A large presence of Muslim community in India and the presence of extensive expatriate population working in the Gulf countries might have also deterred India from coming closer to Israel.
But, shedding these inhibitions and apprehensions, New Delhi in the recent past has improved its relations with Tel Aviv. This is evident from the fact that Israel has in recent years become an important defence supplier for India.
The two countries signed an air and missile defence deal worth almost $2 billion in April this year, in what Israel termed the "largest defence contract deal" in its history.
Even when many Arab countries are overtly or covertly striking deals with Israel, India finds no reason in boycotting this nation. Modi’s visit comes in the backdrop of India seeking to modernise and grow its indigenous defence capabilities.
India and Israel have a diplomatic relationship dating back to 1992. But, Modi’s visit to Israel marks a qualitative improvement in the bilateral relations as it commemorates the 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
Israel is poised to become a key player in Modi’s India making a tryst with Make in India especially in the defence sector.
In May, Modi hosted Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President for a state dinner and affirmed "India's commitment to the Palestinian cause." However, Indian Prime Minister is unlikely to press too much on this issue as the country no longer plays the role of a vanguard of Non Aligned Movement.
The visit, therefore, is expected to focus entirely on cooperation between two nations ranging from economic to security aspects. In Modi, the Israelis find a trusted ally as he shares ideological affinity with this modern Jewish state.
The chemistry between the current leadership of India and the Israel provides a perfect context for buoyant relations.
The innovative potential of this nation gels with Modi’s vision for Digital India and Start up India. Israeli companies pioneered technological advances like Firewall, Voice Mail, USB Flash drive, VoIP and digital printing. Fight against terrorism further strengthens the fraternal bonds between the two nations.
The liberalising India obviously falls in love with Israel as it has more NASDAQ listed companies than any other country in the world except United States and China whose total market capitalisation exceeds $85 billion.
India is hoping to build an innovation and incubation eco system. Israel known for its vibrant Research and Development system can be a useful partner.
Indian agriculture saddled with low levels of productivity has a lot to learn from Israel in horticulture and water resources management.
Besides, immense potential for bilateral cooperation still remains untapped in various sectors like science and technology, Information Technology, defence, higher education, counter terrorism and internal security.