Israeli PM visits India to mark 25 years of relations

Israeli PM visits India to mark 25 years of relations
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will commemorate 25 years of diplomatic relations with India during a five-day visit to the country. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 January 2018

Israeli PM visits India to mark 25 years of relations

Israeli PM visits India to mark 25 years of relations

NEW DELHI: India and Israel commemorate 25 years of diplomatic relations with a five-day visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu starting Sunday.
He will visit New Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.
Besides engaging political leaders in the national capital, Netanyahu will also meet with business leaders in the financial capital.
At an event during his Mumbai trip, he is due to invite the Bollywood film industry to explore Israel for film shoots.
“The visit will focus on the progress made between India and Israel since… Modi’s visit to Israel last summer, and on shaping the next 25 years of relationship between our countries and our people,” Daniel Carmon, Israeli ambassador to India, said in a statement.
India has termed the visit “very significant,” and the bonding between the two nations “special.”
India canceled a $500-million defense deal with Israel just days ahead of Netanyahu’s visit, but may be considering reviving the purchase of Spike anti-tank missiles, the Times of Israel quoted the Press Trust of India as reporting.
Dr. Zakir Hussain, a research fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), a New Delhi-based think tank, told Arab News: “For Israel, India is a natural partner in the 21st century.”
He added: “For Tel Aviv, New Delhi is a big market, and it won’t allow India’s position on Palestine to come in the way of expanding its outreach to this growing economy.”
Harsh V. Pant, head of the Strategic Studies program at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), told Arab News: “There’s a paradigm shift in the relationship between Israel and India.”
He said: “The relationship used to be shrouded in secrecy. Now there’s open acceptance of Israel at the political level, which is reciprocated on the ground level.”
Pant added: “The idea is to take the relationship to a level where it becomes more organic and broad-based, not confined to defense and technology transfers, but also tourism and cultural exchanges.”
Suman Sharma, a journalist covering Indian foreign policy, said: “There will be more people-to-people contact and greater engagement at the level of civil society.”
But the growing ties are being criticized by Indians who sympathize with the Palestinian cause.
India recently joined 127 other countries to vote in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution opposing US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“India has a commitment toward the Palestinian issue, and it cannot move away from its core values of supporting the oppressed,” said Naved Hamid, president of the All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat, a federation of Muslim organizations in India.
Indian Foreign Ministry official Bala Bhaskar said: “Our Palestinian policy is not influenced by others, it is independent.”
Political commentator Dr. Waiel Awwad told Arab News: “It’s a negative narrative that India is shifting its stand toward Palestine.”
He added: “In time, New Delhi’s relationship with the Arab world will be strengthened to reflect its historical, economic and geographical ties.”
Pant said: “The Modi government wants to de-hyphenate the relationship with Israel and Palestine. That’s why when Modi visited Israel last summer, he didn’t visit Palestine, a traditional stopover for Indian leadership.”
Pant added: “By voting against Israel on the Jerusalem issue, India wanted to send the message that it values its relationship with Israel, but it also values its bond with the Arab world and the Palestinian issue.”