Jerusalem: The biggest
dream of Israeli President Shimon Peres is to go to India, if he
gets an invitation, said one diplomat. Shimon Peres would very
much enjoy his visit to India, said another.
That was the broadest hint one got of Israel's keen desire to take
its relationship with India to the next level, somewhat on the
pattern of New Delhi's strategic partnership with the United
States, which is the closest ally of the Jewish state too.
As it is, despite India's support for the Palestinian cause, New
Delhi and Tel Aviv have a wide-ranging relationship encompassing
defence, economic cooperation, agriculture, food security and
India is the largest customer of Israeli military equipment and
Israel is the second-largest military partner of India after the
Russian Federation with a military business worth around $9
India is also the second-largest Asian economic partner of Israel
with bilateral trade, excluding military sales, standing at about
$5 billion, up from a mere $200 million in 1992 when the two
established formal relations. An extensive bilateral free trade
pact is also in the works.
"There is a huge interest in India," officials told a group of
Indian journalists from Washington during a recent visit, noting
that some 50,000 Israelis visit India every year with many a youth
taking advantage of the time off they get after doing compulsory
military service, three years for men and two for women, on
But lack of exchanges has kept the profile of relationship low,
lamented officials seeking a dialogue at the top with more
high-level visits on both sides.
"I believe India has all kinds of interest in the Arab world,"
said one senior official. But notwithstanding that, India can
still raise the level of its relationship with Israel too as
"there is a lot to aspire."
With "Iran working hard to acquire a nuclear weapon, though there
is evidence that they are there yet," the Israelis would like
India "to be more active in efforts to persuade Iran to give up
its nuclear ambitions".
"There are many ways to do it," said an official ambiguously
without spelling out how even as he acknowledged that "India of
course is respecting and implementing the UN sanctions" against
Indian diplomats in Tel Aviv too took note of the "thriving"
relationship with Israel thanks to their similar societies, a long
and peaceful Jewish presence in India and presence of 70,000
Indian Jews in Israel.
The then External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna visited Israel in
January against the backdrop of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic
Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath, Human Resource Development
Minister Kapil Sibal and Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai
But given Israel's increasing isolation over its defiant actions
after the United Nations General Assembly voted to grant
"non-member observer state" status to the "Palestinian entity," a
visit at the highest political level may be hard to come by any
(Arun Kumar can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)