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26/11 brings India, Israel closer

Friday November 26, 2010 05:39:12 PM, Manish Chand, IANS

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New Delhi: Two years after the 26/11 terror spree, baby Moshe, whose parents were killed in the attack on the Jewish centre in Mumbai, is growing up fine in Israel. And the ties between India and Israel have grown stronger than ever as the two countries bolster their secuity dialogue and firm up a free trade pact.

"One of the main intentions of terrorists was to harm relations between India and Israel. But it has had an opposite effect: They have pushed us closer than ever before," David Goldfarb, a senior diplomat at the Israeli embassy here, told IANS.

Said Navtej Sarna, India's ambassador to Israel: "India-Israel relations continue to develop strongly in several areas, including agriculture, trade, water resources and cutting-edge technologies."

The Chabad House Jewish centre was among the targets during the Nov 26-29, 2008 Mumbai terror attack that killed 166 people, including 26 foreigners. Moshe's parents, who ran the Chabad House, were among the victims.

Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor among the 10 attackers, told police the Israelis were targeted to "avenge the atrocities on Palestinians." Israel had sent paramedics and other rescue personnel to Mumbai.

Baby Moshe, who turned four two weeks ago, is growing up fine in Israel and misses Chabad House, also called Nariman House, say his paternal grandparents Nachman and Frieda Holtzberg, who are in Mumbai for the prayer service for the Mumbai terror victims.

Since 26/11, the India-Israel counter-terror cooperation and the dialogue on homeland security has acquired a new force. "Sharing intelligence between India and Israel on terrorist attacks have intensified. The defence relationship has grown stronger," Chinmaya Gharekhan, a veteran diplomat and India's former special envoy to West Asia, told IANS.

Goldfarb sees India and Israel as "victims of Islamist fundamentalist terror groups" and points out that more people in both countries understand that they have to work together against the scourge of terror.

"India, Israel are both democracies in an unfriendly neighbourhood. Israel firmly stands behind India in countering terrorism," he said.

Israel is the second largest supplier of cutting-edge defence equipment to India. The two countries are planning to jointly develop a new generation of medium-range surface-to-air missiles in a $2.47 billion project, informed sources said.

But it's not just security cooperation that is blossoming. Economic relations are on the upswing. Israel's Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said in Tel Aviv Thursday that it was going to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with India.

Steinitz is expected to visit India in February 2011 to push negotiations for the FTA.

"It is progressing quite well and I hope it will happen very soon," said Israeli Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who visited India in January.

India is now the second top export destination for Israel, next only to the US. Bilateral trade has grown manifold from $80 million in 1991 to about $5 billion in 2010. Israeli high-tech companies and start-ups are increasingly outsourcing much of their development to India.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at







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