Contemporary Issues – INDIA- ISRAEL

Dimensions of the Relationship

Economic RelationsFrom US$ 200 million in 1992 bilateral merchandise trade stood at US$ 5.65 billion (excluding defence) in 2018-19,
The balance of trade is in India’s favour.
India is Israel’s third largest trade partner in Asia and seventh largest globally.
InvestmentsIndian investments in Israel (April 2000-June 2017) totalled USD 122.4 million
There are over 300 investments from Israel in India mainly in the high-tech domain and in agriculture.
AgricultureIndia has benefited from Israeli expertise and technologies in horticulture mechanization, protected cultivation, orchard and canopy management, nursery management, micro- irrigation and post-harvest management.
DefenceThere are regular exchanges between the armed forces.
There is cooperation on security issues, including a Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism.
Israel has been among India’s top three arms suppliers for the last five years.
India and Israel have jointly developed MRSAM or Barak 8 air defence system.
Science & Technology·   A MoU for establishing India – Israel Industrial R&D and Innovation Fund (i4F) by the Department of Science and Technology, India and the National Authority for Technological Innovation, Israel was signed in 2017.
This MoU, with a contribution of US$ 20 million from each side over 5 years, is playing an important role in enabling Indian and Israeli enterprises to undertake joint R&D projects

India and the Israel-Palestine Conflict

India’s policy on the longest running conflict in the world has gone from being unequivocally pro-Palestine for the first four decades, to a balancing act with its three-decade-old friendly ties with Israel. In recent years, India’s position has also been perceived as pro-Israel.

1948 – India Voted against Creation of Israel

  • India was the only non-Arab state among 13 countries that voted against the UN partition plan of Palestine in the General Assembly that led to the creation of Israel.
  • Reasons for India’s support to Palestine – India’s own Partition along religious lines, its principled stand against Colonialism and its effects, solidarity with  Palestinian people, to ward of Pakistan’s plan to isolate India over Kashmir and India’s energy dependency on Arab countries.
  • However, India formally recognised Israel in September 1950. Full diplomatic relations were established as late as 1992.

India and PLO

  • At 53rd UN session, India co-sponsored draft resolution on rights of Palestinians to self-determination.
  • In 1967 and 1973 wars, India lashed out at Israel as the aggressor.
  • In 1975, India became first non-Arab country to recognise PLO as sole representative of Palestinian people, and invited it to open an office in Delhi, which was accorded diplomatic status five years later.
  • In 1988, when PLO declared an independent state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, India granted recognition immediately.
  • India voted for Palestine to become a full member of UNESCO in 2011, and a year later, co-sponsored UN General Assembly resolution that enabled Palestine to become a “non-member” observer state at UN without voting rights. India also supported the installation of Palestinian flag on UN premises in 2015.

Post 2014 – A new phase (Policy of De-hyphenation)

  • India abstained from voting at UN Human Rights Council on a resolution which claimed to highlight evidence of alleged war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Hamas during the 2014 airstrikes against Gaza that killed over 2000.
  • In 2016, India abstained again from a UNHRC resolution against Israel.
  • In 2017, during the visit of PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas, reference to East Jerusalem was missing in the statement issued by Indian PM. Historically, India supported Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its Capital. This stand of India was contrary to stand iterated by the Indian president during his visit to Ramallah (Palestine).
  • In 2018, PM Modi became first ever Indian PM to visit Israel. At this visit, PM skipped visit to Palestinian de facto capital Ramallah.
  • This move was seen as India pursuing a policy of de-hyphenation wherein it would deal with Israel and Palestine separately. De-hyphenation is a careful balancing act, with India shifting from one side to another as the situation demands.
  • This was clearly visible when India had voted in favor of a resolution in the UN General Assembly opposing Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital.
  • At UNHRC earlier this year, India voted against Israel in three resolutions – one on the right of self-determination of Palestinian people, a second on Israeli settlement policy, and a third on human rights situation in Golan Heights.
  • Recently, International Criminal Court claimed jurisdiction to investigate human rights abuses in Palestinian territory including West Bank and Gaza and named both Israeli security forces and Hamas as perpetrators. Israeli PM wanted India to take stand because India does not recognize ICC. However, India did not take any stand.
  • Thus, India has been following a policy where it is taking stands on the issues on a case-to-case basis. The policy of De-hyphenation is a work in progress.
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