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    August 2017

Making Up For The Lost Time

Editor-Post

In July this year, Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. The visit hogged reams of newspaper space and the prime time of television channels across the world. It made the international media and the diplomatic community sit up and keenly observe the Modi Government’s foreign policy as India consolidates its special relationships with strategic Arab nations in its journey towards becoming a global superpower.  

Our Foreign Desk in this edition brings to Bureaucracy Today readers the essentiality and significance of India’s relations with Israel. Their ties are not only diplomatic or trade-based but also civilisational – a point conveniently overlooked by some countries and a section of the Indian political class which see the blossoming of the relations as a threat to their vested interests.

With India emerging as one of the biggest buyers of Israeli defence equipment, there has been a perception that the relations between the two democracies are restricted to the defence sector only. But nothing could be more far from the truth. Apart from defence Israel has a proven track record in cyber security, water management, agricultural technology and rapid house building with prefabricated material. Israeli technology can not only help the Modi Government realise its ambitious Digital India and Smart Cities projects but also spur India in managing its water resources better and meeting its food challenges. In fact, India and Israel signed seven agreements on areas, including those of space, technology and agriculture, during Modi’s visit to the Jewish nation.

Unfortunately, the long hiatus in India-Israel relations during the UPA rule years between 2004 and 2014 resulted in loss of time and dissipated New Delhi’s initiative. Modi’s trip to Israel is a welcome step. Modi’s meeting with the Israeli leaders signals the end of a decade-long freeze in the relations between the two countries. Now India must vigorously engage with Israel and make up for the lost decade.  

The Modi visit also signals that India is willing and able to pursue independent relationships with both Israelis and Palestinians, but not through the prism of their conflict.

Making a huge departure from the traditional Indian practice, Modi decided not to meet any Palestinian official during his trip to Israel. Normally, Indian officials visit Ramallah while travelling to Israel to preserve the delicate balance. Significantly, the joint statement by Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also does not make any mention of a two-State solution.

However, this does not mean that India has abandoned its century-old relationship with the Palestinians. In fact, in May, New Delhi hosted a dinner for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas where Modi reaffirmed India’s support for the Palestinian cause and expressed the hope that peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians would resume and be fruitful.

Modi’s visit to Israel heralds a new beginning for India’s Arab policy. India under Modi’s leadership has made it clear that downplaying India’s ties with Israel or hyphenating them with the Palestinians is now a vestige of the past.

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