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Murthy Karanam asked: What changes can be anticipated in India-Israel bilateral relations with the newly elected right-wing nationalist government in Israel?

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  • S Samuel C Rajiv replies: Over the course of the past 25 years, since full diplomatic relations were established in January 1992, India-Israel relations have been propelled forward largely by coalition governments in both countries. It was under a Congress-led coalition government that full diplomatic relations were established in January 1992. The relations have subsequently been strengthened by the coalition governments led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from 1999-2004 and by Dr Manmohan Singh, who led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) from 2004-2014.

    Since 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been leading a majority BJP government. During his path-breaking July 2017 visit to Israel, both countries formally established a ‘strategic partnership’ and pledged to further increase cooperation in the fields of defence, cyber security, and high technology areas, including in the innovation sector. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited India six months later in January 2018, the second prime ministerial visit after Ariel Sharon’s September 2003 visit.

    In Israel, as in India, coalition governments made up of different political formations led by leaders ranging from Ehud Olmert to Netanyahu have not only taken a special interest but nurtured relations with India. Israel has come to view its relations with a big Asian country like India as an essential part of its ‘Look East’ policy, even as the country’s ‘special’ relationship with the United States continues to be the most important bilateral relationship. While the volume of bilateral trade between India and Israel has not seen a perceptible growth in recent years, defence and security cooperation continues to be the strongest pillar of the bilateral relationship.

    India-Israel relations can, therefore, be expected to continue to be strengthened under the Naftali Bennett coalition government, which includes both far-right and far-left political parties, apart from Arab Islamists.

    Posted on 27 July 2021

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.