Modi’s Israel visit: Defense and fighting terror are pillars of bilateral ties
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel from July 4-6 is a significant milestone. It is the first-ever visit of an Indian Prime Minister, and takes place as the two countries mark 25 years of establishment of diplomatic relations. President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit, in October 2015, had been the first ever visit by an Indian President. The timelines clearly indicate that the reticence on high level visits to Israel is gradually changing. Israeli presidents and prime ministers have visited India before.
A recognition of the multidimensional depth and history of interactions, through phases in Jewish and Israeli history, has often been lost in the clamour of West Asian and domestic politics.
Jewish communities have been in India for more than two thousand years. Representatives of Indian origin diaspora in Israel and Israeli leaders would often mention to me with pride and gratitude that India was among the few countries in the world where there was no anti- Semitism. During the second world war, several thousand Jewish refugees, escaping the Holocaust in Europe, were in India for some years before moving on to Israel. Members of the Jewish faith in India acquired acclaim in several fields, including art, films, philanthropy, armed forces etc. when the faith was discriminated against elsewhere. The nearly 80, 000 strong Indian origin diaspora in Israel celebrates its link with India, unlike many other Jewish communities there who severe links with countries from where they felt a compulsion to leave. Indian food and entertainment remains its mainstay, and the Indian ambassador often among the chief guests at major events.
Although diplomatic relations were established only in 1992, exchanges and interactions had taken place earlier, with India having recognised the State of Israel in 1950. The Jewish Agency, followed by an Israeli trade office and then an Israeli consulate had operated from Mumbai. Indian diamond traders had been present at the bourse in Tel Aviv. There have been reports in the media of Israel being helpful during the 1971 conflict.