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India had always recognised the Jewish state of Israel but took a long time in establishing full diplomatic relations which happened in 1992, thanks to then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao. Even after that it has taken a quarter of a century for this country’s Head of Government to pay an official visit to Jerusalem.
Due credit must be given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in ensuring India’s commitment to the Arab World particularly the inalienable right of the Palestinians to a homeland remained even if they did not visit Ramallah while on a trip to Israel.
It has long for the Indian leadership to realise that building friendship with Israel did not mean that India’s support for a Palestinian homeland had been given up or relegated to the background. An Indian dignitary can henceforth dispense with going to Ramallah before or after a visit to Israel. Ramallah is a Palestinian city which is the administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority. It is located on the West Bank about 10 Km from Jerusalem.
Modi’s three-day visit to Israel from July fourth was indeed historic as his beaming host and counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu explained they had been waiting for it for seven decades.
On its part the Modi government spent more than two years in preparing the ground for this sojourn which has set the tone for the multi-faceted cooperation along with elevating it to a strategic level between the two countries.
Such a status has been accorded by India to other partners like the US, the Russian Federation, Germany and Japan. This has opened the floodgates for mutually beneficial cooperation in several spheres encompassing water conservation, arid area farming, space, cyber security, scientific and technological research, defence, IT and a host of other spheres.
Both India and Israel attained independence in 1947-48 but the challenges and problems of the wars fought at their inception remained even now. If it was Jammu and Kashmir based separatism and terrorism in India, Hamas and Hizbollah-led activities with political backing from other nations remained Israel’s challenge.
While the regional dynamics are no doubt different, they are in areas of wide ranging conflict. Now that Indo-Israel relationship are out of the closet, the prospects of transfer of technology and manufacturing defence items in India has brightened.
Apart from the defence deals expected to equip India with new military capabilities, the armed drones can provide this country new military capabilities for battling the menace of militants along the Line of Control (LOC).
Then Israel being water scarce its desalinisation technology is cutting edge with a mobile desalinisation unit mounted on a four wheel drive buggy which takes water from anywhere and transforms it into drinking water. Their drip irrigation based on new technology will help farmers get real time alert on actual water needs of plants in their fields.
At the same time Israel’s support for India’s war on terror has been total. The joint statement provided an idea of the future contours of the bilateral relationship. “The two leaders visualised that India and Israel will become close partners in development, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, defence and security,” the joint statement added.
Modi’s visit to Israel sends out an important signal to business to step up partnership, trade and investment. The joint statement has steered clear of specifying any particular source of threat to peace and stability. Instead the emphasis is on cooperation to combat growing radicalisation and terrorism.
Significantly, a better relationship with Jerusalem did not mean ignoring Ramallah. By recognising Israel and Palestine as separate entities, New Delhi is preserving its delicate balancing act in West Asia.
( T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)