Ever since former Indian Prime Minister P. V. Narsimha Rao decided in January 1992 to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, relations between the two democracies have flourished in all fields. Socially, there have been unprecedented people-to-people exchanges. Today over 40,000 Israelis travel to India annually. Since the Israeli poet Amir Or translated the famous Indian epic he Mahabharata into Hebrew in 1998, more books of Indian poetry have been translated into Hebrew.
Economically, technologically and militarily, relations between India and Israel also have moved from strength to strength. In 1992 trade between the two nations stood at a meagre $100 million. Today this stands at $5 billion with the possibility of its being tripled if a free trade agreement is concluded between the two nations.
Israel has always been appreciative of New Delhi's security imperatives. Jerusalem stood by India in its wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999, and The was helpful to India in winning the Kargil war of 1999.
During India's "Kargil War" of 1999, Israel came to India's assistance. Since then, India has increasingly turned to Israel for advanced weapons systems.
During India's Kargil War of 1999, Israel came to India's assistance. Since then, India has increasingly turned to Israel for advanced weapons systems. Pictured: Indian soldiers in Batalik during the Kargil War. (Image source: Narendra Modi/Flickr)
India has emerged as Israel's second largest Asian trading partner, after China. Today Israel is India's second largest arms supplier, after Russia. The Indo-Israeli relationship in this sector has developed into the formation of joint military ventures for the development of specific weapons systems and technologies.
Since 1999, India's Ministry of External Affairs and Israel's Foreign Ministry have held annual consultations on counterterrorism in both New Delhi and Jerusalem.
During Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's recent India visit (November 15-20, 2016 ), the two nations concluded agreements on cooperation in agriculture, water, education, cyber security, defence cooperation and counter-terrorism.
New Delhi, however has yet to be fully appreciative of Israel's security imperatives. At the United Nations General Assembly, as late as in 2014, India voted in favour of resolutions criticizing Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories. New Delhi also voted at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva censuring Israel for its 'Operation Protective Edge' (2014) and Israel's supposedly "disproportionate" retaliation in the Gaza strip, an allegation since proven false.
Clearly, New Delhi did not take in consideration that the Israeli action has throughout been in retaliation for 11,000 rockets and missiles launched since 2005 from Palestinian areas into a country not even the size of India's state of Mizoram (21,087 sq. km; Israel, 20,770 sq. km). According to BBC news, Amnesty International reported that "Hamas rocket attacks amounted to war crimes."
The Palestine Authority (PA), formerly the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), accompanied by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and most regrettably the biased United Nations, currently busy rewriting historical facts has continued the politics of hatred and Israel, and encouraged activities, including suicide bombings, intifadas and rocket barrages, against the Israeli citizens. Hamas and its counterparts, such as Islamic Jihad, do not grant Israel any legitimacy or even a right to exist.
It is heartening to note that New Delhi under current Prime Minister Narendra Modi has increasingly appreciated Israel's security imperatives. New Delhi abstained at the UN Human Rights Commission on July 1, 2015 on a resolution that welcomed the report of the Commission of Inquiry established a year ago to investigate violation of international humanitarian and human rights law in the "Occupied Territories" during "Operation Protective Edge."
New Delhi has yet to be morally conscientious enough openly to back Israel in multilateral fora such as the United Nations. One hopes Prime Minister Modi would show the statesmanlike leadership at which he is so expert, and for which he is so admired. It is hoped that make some positive, bold announcements during his expected visit to Israel in the near future, and demonstrate even greater leadership in international fora.
Israel stands and fights for openness, diversity, truth and its existence, just as India does. India must back Israel. New Delhi also needs Jerusalem in combating Islamist terrorism, one of the greatest threats to its unity and territorial integrity. This terrorism has claimed hundreds of thousands of Indian lives so far. Between 1980 to 2008 alone terrorism claimed around 150,000 lives.
Israel has long been a frontline democracy fighting the Islamist threat relatively successfully. While meeting an Indian ministerial delegation in Jerusalem in 2010, the late Israeli President Shimon Peres offered New Delhi complete co-operation in its war against terror, stating "India's security is as important to Israel as its own". New Delhi could take full advantage of this bond with Jerusalem.
New Delhi could learn from Israel how its security and intelligence agencies dismantle terror camps. The operational code of anti-India Islamist forces' behaviour is similar to that of Israel's Palestinian counterparts: spread the culture of hatred and violence against the free world. Israel knows better than anyone it how best to protect it against such elements.
Jagdish N. Singh is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.