India – Israel Relations (2)

Indian & Israeli flags
Indian & Israeli flags

Historical context

India recognized Israel in 1950. However full diplomatic relations were established with the setting up of embassies in 1992.

Initially, Indian leaders were opposed to the idea of religious nationalism as the foundation for a nation due to their experience with partition. Thus, they were fundamentally opposed to the idea of Israel as a state created based on Zionism. Moreover, they saw the plight of the Palestinians as a direct consequence of British imperialism. But once formal ties were established in 1992, defence and trade relations took off, and Israel quickly became India’s second-largest defence partner. 

Since then, defence and agriculture formed the two main pillars of the India-Israel bilateral engagement. In recent years, the relations have diversified across a spectrum of areas that befits the two knowledge economies. Agreements have been signed in the fields of 

  • R&D innovation
  • Water
  • Agriculture
  • Space technology
  • Cyber security
  • Oil & gas cooperation
  • Film co-production
  • Air transport 
  • Trade
  • Culture 

Economic and Commercial Relations

  • From US$ 200 million in 1992, bilateral merchandise trade stood at US$ 10.1 billion (excluding defence) in 2022-23, with the balance of trade being in India’s favour
  • Trade in diamonds constitutes close to 40% of bilateral trade. 
  • India is Israel’s third-largest trade partner in Asia and seventh-largest globally. 
  • Major exports from India to Israel include pearls and precious stones, automotive diesel, chemical and mineral products, machinery and electrical equipment, plastics, textile and apparel, base metals and transport equipment, and agricultural products. 
  • Major imports by India from Israel include precious stones and metals, chemicals and mineral products, base metals and machinery and transport equipment. 
  • There are over 300 investments from Israel in India mainly in the high-tech domain and in agriculture

Agriculture

  • Under a comprehensive Work Plan for cooperation in agriculture signed in 2006, bilateral projects are implemented through MASHAV and CINADCO. 
  • Agricultural cooperation between the two sides is formalized through 3-year Work plans. The Fifth three-year work program (2021-2023) was signed in 2021. 
  • Thirty Agriculture Centres of Excellence are fully active in 12 Indian states. 
  • 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, particularly in Haryana and Maharashtra. 

Defence & Security

  • India imports critical defence technologies from Israel. There are regular exchanges between the armed forces. 
  • There is cooperation on security issues, including a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. In February 2014, India and Israel signed three important agreements on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Cooperation in Homeland Security, and Protection of Classified Material. 
  • Since 2015, IPS officer trainees have been visiting the Israel National Police Academy every year for a one-week-long foreign exposure training at the end of their training in the National Police Academy, Hyderabad.
  • India participated in the multilateral Airforce exercise Blue Flag-2021 was held in October 2021 in Israel.

Cooperation in S&T and Space

  • India-Israel cooperation in S&T is overseen by the Joint Committee on S&T, established under the S&T Cooperation Agreement signed in 1993. 
  • In September 2020, Israel’s Startup Nation Central and India’s International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology (iCREATE) signed a bilateral program to accelerate innovation and tech cooperation.

International Cooperation

    • In 2015 and 2016, India abstained from a UN vote that discussed whether Israel should be brought before the International Criminal Court for its alleged war crimes during the 2014 crisis in Gaza. 
    • I2U2 is a non-security mechanism for cooperation on development issues between India, Israel, the USA, and the UAE. It is also referred to as the West Asian Quad. It focuses on six key areas of cooperation: Health, Water, Transportation, Food security, and Space.
    • ISA is a collaborative platform that aims to increase the deployment of solar energy. It was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, in 2015. The ISA was conceived as a joint effort by India and France to mobilize efforts against climate change. Israel joined the alliance in 2021.
    • India-Israel Industrial R&D and Innovation Fund (I4F) It is a $40 million fund that supports joint industrial R&D between India and Israel. The fund’s goal is to promote, facilitate and support joint industrial R&D between India and Israel and aims to lead to co-development and commercialization. The fund was created in 2017 by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of India and the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA).

People-to-people relations

  • India is known in Israel as an ancient nation with strong cultural traditions and is considered an attractive tourist destination. 
  • There are approximately 85,000 Jews of Indian origin and about 18,000 Indian citizens in Israel. These include 
    • Bene Israelis of Maharashtra
    • Cochini Jews of Kerala 
    • Baghdadi Jews of West Bengal 
    • Bnei Menashe of North Eastern states
    • The Embassy facilitates the National Convention of Indian Jews in Israel. The annual event brings together around 5,000 Indian-origin Jews of Israel.

The two countries jointly celebrated 30 years of the upgradation of bilateral ties to full diplomatic relations in 2022-23.

 

Read our Previous Story on the India-Israel relationship here

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