Benjamin Netanyahu India Visit: Months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given a red carpet welcome in Israel by his “friend” Benjamin Netanyahu, the India PM has left no stone unturned to extend a special welcome to his guest. Modi’s visit to Israel was special as it was for the first time when an Indian PM had visited the Jewish country. Modi-Netanyahu bonhomie then made news across the world as both countries vowed to take the strategic partnership to the next level.
The highs of Modi’s last visit to Israel was, however, somewhat marred recently when India sided with the rest of the world against the US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a move that invited global condemnation. The second development that threatened to hurt bilateral ties was India cancelling $500 million defence deal with Israeli firm Rafael. The deal was for developing Spike anti-tank guided missiles. The Israeli firm had “regretted” India’s decision just ahead of Netanyahu’s visit to India.
It now seems Israel is unperturbed about India’s voting in the UN on Jerusalem issue or the cancellation of the defence deal. Israel has to gain a lot from India and so does the latter. What brings the two countries close, or the reason for Modi-Netanyahu “love affair”, are the Indian Jews, democracy and challenges of cross-border terrorism faced by the two nations as well as their love for technology and innovation.
On his first visit to India as Israeli PM, Netanyahu has hailed his meeting with Modi as the beginning of a “new era of friendship” between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. On Monday, both countries signed as many as nine deals.
On Wednesday, Modi and Netanyahu held a roadshow in Ahmedabad. Throughout the route of the roadshow, as many as 50 stages were erected to showcase performance by troupes from different states. Modi had extended an almost similar welcome to the Japanese premier during his visit to India last September. Later today, Netanyahu and his wife also tried their hands at kite flying in the presence of Modi.
Political messaging of the optics created by the roadshow was evident. Modi is setting the ground for winning 2019 General Election. But then, as far as India and Israel are concerned, a question remains – Will the optics translate into real, mutually beneficial and cordial ties?
The geopolitical realities of both countries are different. Israel being a major arms dealer and hub of innovation surely has much interest in India’s emerging economy. But India cannot blindly play “best friend” to Israel. New Delhi has to do a lot of balancing act to please Israel as well as other nations like Palestine and Iran, with whom Tel Aviv is at odds. India, however, enjoys friendship with both countries.