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India-Israel Bilateral Relation Touches New High
Dec 15, 2016

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin was on his first visit to India recently. During the talks both countries decided to further broad-base their already close defence partnership and intensify cooperation in combating radicalisation and extremism, while calling upon global community to act tough against terror networks and States harbouring them. 

  • Rivlin was the first Israeli President to visit India in two decades.

The two sides inked two pacts to strengthen cooperation in agriculture and water resources management sectors. 

The two countries also agreed to deepen their cooperation in a variety of areas including trade and investment, agriculture, water resources and cyber crime.

India is Israel’s largest buyer of military hardware and the latter has been supplying various weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years .

Immediate significance of the visit 

Rivlin is the second president of Israel to visit India in almost two decades. The first president to visit India was Ezer Weizman and he visited New Delhi in 1997. The visit comes after President Pranab Mukherjee’s Israel trip last year. Rivlin’s visit marks 25 years of formal diplomatic ties with Israel set in motion by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in 1992.

Political Message 

After the visit of then Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to India in 2003, no head of government or the state from Israel has even come here, and no Indian Prime Minister has visited Israel. The political messaging, however, is clear—Israel has emerged as a key partner for India in the spheres of security, defence and agriculture among others. Political sensitivity over India’s longstanding ties with Palestine had forced successive governments to keep the ties low-key. But, not anymore. Last year, Pranab Mukherjee became the first Indian head of state to visit Israel.

Areas of cooperation other than security and defence

Agriculture cooperation has emerged as a key focus area for the two countries. In Karnal, the Centre of Excellence of Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project is situated. Fifteen centres of excellence in agriculture have already been commissioned in some states and India has benefited from Israeli expertise and technologies in horticulture mechanisation, protected cultivation, orchard and canopy management, nursery management, micro-irrigation and post-harvest management particularly in Haryana and Maharashtra. Israeli drip irrigation technologies and products are now widely used in India.

History of India-Israel ties 

India formally recognised Israel on September 17, 1950. Soon thereafter, the Jewish Agency established an immigration office in Bombay. This was later converted into a trade office and subsequently into a consulate. Embassies were opened in 1992 when full diplomatic relations were established. Since the upgradation of relations in 1992, defence and agriculture have been the main pillars of bilateral engagement. In recent years, ties have expanded to areas such as science and technology, education and homeland security. The future vision of the cooperation is of a strong hi-tech partnership as befits two leading knowledge economies. Political ties between the two countries are friendly.

What Trade and economic ties 

From $200 million in 1992 (comprising primarily trade in diamonds), bilateral merchandise reached $5.19 billion in 2011. It has stagnated around $4.5 billion since then. Though trade in diamonds constitutes close to 50% of bilateral trade, trade has diversified into several sectors such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, IT and telecom, and homeland security in recent years. 

Major exports from India to Israel include precious stones and metals, chemical products, textiles and textile articles, plants and vegetable products, and mineral products. 

Major imports by India from Israel include precious stones and metals, chemicals (mainly potash) and mineral products, base metals and machinery and transport equipment. 

In recent years, Israel has taken a strategic decision to strengthen economic relations with China, Japan and India. Investment during April 2000 and November 2013, foreign direct investment (FDI) from Israel in India was $73.7 million. The data does not capture FDI flows from Israel to India that flow through the US, Europe and Singapore.

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