Indian PM to visit Israel in order to increase security ties

As being first Indian prime minister to visit Israel, Modi is eager to further increase his country’s already settled military and strategic ties with Tel Aviv

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The one year in office Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will pay an official visit to Israel soon as part of his drive to change Indian foreign policy by expanding the country’s military influence as he becomes the first Indian PM to visit Tel Aviv since the bilateral diplomatic relations established in 1992.

India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj announced the proposed visit on Sunday and marked it as a new stage in the bilateral relations which was only started in 1992 although New Delhi leadership had recognised Tel Aviv since 1950.

Modi’s trip to Israel for which no date yet to be settled aims to strengthen military and strategic ties since India is the largest buyer of Israel’s military exports.

“Given India’s growing military concerns under Modi, whose government has increased the military budget by 12.5 percent this year, it is not surprising that he would want to strengthen ties with one of India’s largest military suppliers, Israel,” Pratinav Anil, a scholar on Europe and Asia at Paris' Sciences Po, told Anadolu Agency.

Israel has emerged as one of India's top three arms suppliers which delivers items and equipments, such as ship defence missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, but the transaction costs have not been publicised since New Delhi has been abstaining to distress its Arab partners in the Middle East.

Israel’s newly-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the only leader with whom Modi met on the sidelines of UN General Assembly last September when Modi called Netanyahu “my friend” whereas the Israeli PM said the “sky's the limit” for ties between the two countries.

“Since the beginning of ties between the two countries, the countries engage in trade worth over $3.5 billion today,” Anil said as he also highlighted that before 1992 trade stood at only $200 million.

The bilateral relations between India and Israel have a trend of booming since Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) took office almost one year ago.

But the Indian government has been following a well-balanced policy in the relations with Israel due to abstaining from reactions from both the Arab World and its-own Muslim  population which is the second largest in the world and very sympathetic to the Palestinian issue.

The nationalist PM Modi and his BJP perceive Israel as a counterbalance against Pakistan outside and an increasing cross-border religious militancy mostly in and around the Kashmir region.

Modi is also scheduled to visit synchronically Palestine and Jordan together with Israel, a move that was seen as a "balancing act" by some diplomatic experts.

"The visit would bring relations between India and Israel out in the open, after years of keeping it quiet because of New Delhi's support to the Palestinian cause," wrote Rohan Venkataramakrishnan, the editor of Indian news blog

"The most likely outcome would be further development of economic ties and a more open acknowledgment of how much the two countries work together on defence equipment," Venkataramakrishnan added.

India had taken a pro-Arab stance in the issues concerning Palestine and Arab-Israeli disputes like the 1956 Suez Crisis and Israel’s occupation of Lebanon in 1982 during the whole Cold War era.

But the parties accelerated mutual relations after 1992 and particularly Ariel Sharon’s trip to India in 2003 as being the first Israeli PM to have visited New Delhi.

Israel was holding talks with India to sell two airborne early warning radars to be mounted on India's Russian-made aircraft when Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon arrived in India last February.

"We see India as a partner and a friend. That is why we are ready to share technology," Ya'alon had then said by adding that Tel Aviv was looking for ways to upgrade the defence partnership with New Delhi.

India has recently launched an ambitious military modernisation programme that is worth of 100 billion dollars as the Asian giant felt itself in a security dilemma due to the ongoing armament race with its regional rivals China and Pakistan.  

Over the time, India has become one of the world's largest arms importers, since its booming economy enabled New Delhi to modernise its huge military.

Major arms producers are wooing the country as it replaces its obsolete Soviet-era weapons by purchasing new equipments.

However, India’s nationalist Premier Modi desires to end his country’s security dependency on the foreign military equipments as the country was once known as the world's number one defence importer, but gradually became to be able to produce almost 70 percent of its hardware manufactured domestically by the turn of the decade.


TRTWorld and agencies