India and Israel have recently signed a bilateral agreement to promote innovation in startups, MSMEs of both countries, for the development of dual-use technologies.
To define Indo-Israeli friendship, the best Hindi word will be EKATMA (Soulful Unanimity). This friendship is all-weather, time tested and necessary for world peace. Governments may have their limitations, constraints, and different priorities, but it is the people that matter. Indians stand with their brothers and sisters of Israel whenever their nation is under attack by the terrorist forces, and they will keep on doing even so in the future. In true democracies, governments, eventually, have to respect wishes expressed by the people. It can be stated with certainty that its people's sentiments will be reflected in India's diplomatic statements and action in support of Israel.
As is a general perception, it is not that there is a partnership between Israel and India only in security and strategic spheres. There are strong engagements in the fields of culture, tourism, and agriculture.
Owing to the foreign policy doctrines it devised during the cold war period, despite people's strong goodwill for the state of Israel, the Government of India did not have full-fledged diplomatic relations with the former. However, people's will prevailed, and the embassy of Israel was established in New Delhi in 1992, and a consulate was functional in Mumbai before that.
Similarly, today people of India have strong support for Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel; if not today, then tomorrow GOI will have to respect people's will and recognise the historic and venerable city as the capital of Israel.
Even when there were no diplomatic relations between the two countries, on request of Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Mrs. Golda Meir, the erstwhile Prime Minister of Israel, sent required weapons to India during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. Later, during the Kargil war of 1999, when Pakistani infiltrators and troops had deceitfully occupied Indian posts, Indian jets did not have weapons that could be fired horizontally with precision on enemy existing posts at the heights of thirteen to fifteen thousand feet. Israel supplied laser-guided missiles, and war chroniclers vouch for the fact that the enemy had no option but to run away most disgracefully.
In recent strikes on Balakot terrorist hideouts in Pakistan, Indian jets used Spice 2000 bombs supplied by Israel with surgical precision. Over three hundred terrorists were eliminated as retribution for killing forty paramilitary personnel in Pulwama (Kashmir) by Pakistan sponsored terrorists.
There is a lot of synergy going on between the two countries in defence. There are programmes for the joint production of defence equipment. The primary focus of defence industrial cooperation will be transferring technology, co-development and co-production, technology security and Artificial Intelligence. There are plans for joint exports to third countries as well. The Indian defence forces are using a whole range of Israeli weapon systems; this includes Barak missiles, AWACS and MRSAM air defence systems.
The Indo-Israeli Agriculture Project was launched in the year 2006. It is a G2G strategic partnership in agriculture. Israeli agencies like MASHAV and CINADCO are coordinating with their counterpart Indian National Horticulture Mission. There are plans to create multiple centres of excellence, and over 25 COIs have been established until now.
There are frequent cultural exchanges between the two countries; the Indo-Israeli forums regularly organise symposia and seminars. Hindu-Jew organisations are at the forefront to enhance the goodwill between the two people. Tourists from Israel are a frequent sight in destinations across India.
They are welcomed with open arms and are given the treatment befitting the people from a brother country. Whether it is Goa, a beach resort, or Kasol, a small village in Himachal Pradesh, a Himalayan state in India, Israelis says they do not find themselves treated as outsiders.
Indian Jews who have migrated to Israel are a perfect blend of two cultures and messengers of goodwill that India harbours towards Israelis. There is a steady increase in the number of tourists visiting Israel from India. Recently, a Bollywood film was shot in Israel, which aroused curiosity among the viewers about the land of many hues. It is expected that keeping given the ever-growing trade relations between the two countries, the number of visitors from India will grow manifold.
Unfortunately, both countries are under constant threat of terrorist forces, which have the same ideological moorings. When the Pakistani terrorists attacked the city of Mumbai on 26/11 in the year 2008, one hundred sixty-six innocent lives were lost, along with six Jews. The terrorists knew that the Chabad House in the Colaba area had Jew residents and, while attacking other areas of the city, they unleashed havoc there. It is clear beyond doubt that the fight against terrorism has to be fought together by both countries.
Today, when Hamas and Hezbollah have activated their terrorist machinery against the people of Israel, and Indians are standing steadfastly with their Israeli friends. Iran is the country that funds arming and equipping both the aforesaid terrorist outfits. Iran has supplied the barrage of Katyusha and other rockets launched by Hamas upon Israel is an open secret.
It is high time that the world community should condemn the terrorist-sponsoring state of Iran and ensure the stoppage of war material from the said state to the terrorist organisations. On its part, the Government of India, too, should denounce the activities of Iran and ask it to desist from its support to the organisations which remain a constant danger to world peace.
Iran has proved that it is no friend of India; it has cancelled the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link project earlier awarded to India. India has huge strategic interests in Chabahar because the said port is a gateway to Central Asia through Afghanistan and acts as a countermeasure to the Chinese-sponsored port of Gwadar in Pakistan. Moreover, recently, Iran has backed out of a three billion dollars gas supplying deal with India.
In the Indian territory of Gilgit- Baltistan, which Pakistan illegally occupied, Iran doesn't stand for that area's persecuted Shia majority population. The Government of India will do better to reprimand Iran, especially when the supply of weapons by this country to terrorist forces like Hamas is threatening world peace.
It can be stated positively that the EKATMA of Indo-Israeli bonding will help to thwart constant terrorist threats to both countries. Together, they will lead the world on a path of coexistence.
(The writer is an author, columnist, Documentary Film Producer)