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OPINION                                                                  JUNE 17, 2022  |    The Indian Eye 10

                       The India-Israel Defense

         and Security Partnership At 30

              The Modi government built on the foundations of the robust India-Israel defense and

                                 security engagement and took it to a whole new dimension

        S. SAMUEL C. RAJIV                                                                                    accounting for 12 per cent of India’s
                                                                                                              arms imports, displacing Israel at the
           ndia-Israel relations took on a                                                                    third position.
           new dimension after Prime Min-                                                                         Prior  to  2014,  India’s  relations
        Iister Narendra Modi’s visit to                                                                       with Israel in particular and its ap-
        Jerusalem in July 2017. Bilateral re-                                                                 proach towards the West Asian re-
        lations are on a strong footing, with                                                                 gion in general, has been character-
        strengthened cooperation in the                                                                       ized as a ‘fine balance’, ‘the delicate
        defense sector, apart from robust                                                                     balance’, and ‘straddling fault lines’.
        people-to-people links. Israel, for                                                                   In the September 10, 2003 Delhi
        instance, accounted for the largest                                                                   Statement on Friendship and Coop-
        number of foreign tourist arrivals                                                                    eration, signed when Prime Minister
        (FTA) from West Asia during 2017-                                                                     Ariel Sharon visited India – the first
        19, at nearly 200,000 visitors cumula-                                                                ever visit by an Israeli Prime Minister
        tively for that period, followed by vis-                                                              – India and Israel had pledged to en-
        itors from the United Arab Emirates                                                                   hance the frequency of political and
        (UAE), at about 180,000.                                                                              business interactions.
            India-Israel bilateral trade, from                                                                    While  there  was  significant  po-
        around US$ 500 million  in 1995,                                                                      litical  traffic,  with  cabinet  ministers
        peaked to around US$ 6.7 billion                                                                      and state chief ministers visiting Is-
        in  2011-12  but  dropped  to US$ 4.6                                                                 rael prior to 2017, high-level political
        billion in 2020-21, in the wake of    Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at a bilateral meeting with Israel Defence Minister    interaction was missing. The term
        the pandemic. In 2021-22, bilateral                                                                   ‘strategic partner’ was also conspicu-
        trade increased to US$ 6.9 billion,                      Benjamin Gantz, in New Delhi                 ously absent in major bilateral docu-
        a growth of nearly 50 per cent. The                                                                   ments like the September 2003 Joint
        bilateral trade, though, is more often   two occasions when the Government   Russia, meanwhile, was India’s   Statement. Senior Indian cabinet
        described as made up of ‘diamonds   of India informed Parliament of the   biggest arms supplier during 2017-  ministers on their part, highlighted
        and defense’, as these components   financial  value  of  India-Israel  de-  21, accounting for 46 per cent of the   the need not to advertise their close
        are  the  defining  characteristics  of   fense cooperation. In recent times,   country’s imports.    defense and security relationship.
        the relationship. Trade in HS Clas-  as during 2016-20, India accounted                                   To be sure, India’s high-level
        sification code 71, relating to natural   for 43 per cent of Israel’s total arms   During the previous five-year   political interactions not just with Is-
        or cultured pearls and/or precious   exports, with Azerbaijan a distant                               rael, but with other significant coun-
        stones, for instance, during the last   second, accounting for 17 per cent.  period, 2012-16, India’s arms   tries in West Asia like Saudi Arabia
        five years accounted for 36.7 per cent    Israel was the eighth-largest   imports from Russia stood at   and  Iran,  were  infrequent  prior  to
        of total trade (US$ 9.5 billion out of   arms exporter globally during this                           2014. India’s West Asia policy, wad-
        a total cumulative trade of US$ 25.8   period, accounting for 3 per cent of  nearly 70 per cent of its total   ing through the regional geopolitical
        billion during this period).      global arms exports, after the US,   arms imports.                  hotspots though, continued to ex-
            As  for the  volume  of defense   Russia, France, Germany, China, the                             pand the space for the pursuit of its
        trade, A.K. Antony, the then De-  United Kingdom and Spain. During      France (18 per cent) and Isra-  national interests. India, for instance,
        fense Minister, informed the Upper   2017-21, India’s share in Israel’s glob-  el (13 per cent), other than Russia,   engaged  multiple  regional  players,
        House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)   al exports fell to 37 per cent, followed   made up the top three arms suppliers   even if these countries had inimical
        in May 2007 that ‘defense purchases’   by Azerbaijan (13 per cent) and Viet-  to India during 2016-20. While India   or non-existent relations bilaterally
        from Israel during 2002-2007 were   nam (11per cent), respectively.  imported 18 per cent of its arms from   between themselves.
        over $5 billion.                       Missiles and sensors over-   France during this period, French     The Modi government built on
              Prior  to  this,  in  August  2005,   whelmingly make up the quantum                            the foundations of the robust In-
        Deputy Defense Minister B.K.      of defense exports from Israel. Since   exports to India  accounted  for 21   dia-Israel defense and security en-
                                                                            per cent of that country’s total arms
        Handique told the Rajya Sabha that   2000, for instance, Israel has export-  exports, ahead of Egypt and Qatar,   gagement and took it to a whole new
        ‘the total value of the purchase con-  ed more than $13 billion worth of   at 20 and 18 per cent, respectively.   dimension. Prime Minister Modi
        tracts’ with Israel during 2002-2005,   defense equipment, as per the Stock-  During 2017-21, French arms ex-  assumed  office  in  mid-2014,  in  the
        for purchase of ‘military hardware,   holm Peace Research Institute (SI-  ports to India increased dramatically,   wake of the significant electoral vic-
        equipment and ammunition’, was Rs.   PRI) Trend Indicator Values (TIVs).   accounting for 27 per cent of India’s   tory achieved by the Bhartiya Janata
        11,882.54 crores.’                Out of these, missiles and sensors   total imports, with the United States   Party (BJP)-led coalition. The BJP
            These amount to, perhaps, the   make up 58 per cent of the volume.                                       Continued at next page... >>

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