India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the second-largest defence supplier to India after Russia. From 1999 to 2009, the military business between the two nations was worth around $9 billion. Military and strategic ties between the two nations extend to intelligence sharing on terrorist groups and joint military training.
As of 2014, India is the third-largest Asian trade partner of Israel, and tenth-largest trade partner overall. In 2014, bilateral trade, excluding military sales, stood at US$4.52 billion. Relations further expanded during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration, with India abstaining from voting against Israel in the United Nations in several resolutions. As of 2015, the two nations are negotiating an extensive bilateral free trade agreement, focusing on areas such as information technology, biotechnology, and agriculture.
India's position on the establishment of the State of Israel was affected by many factors, including India's own partition on religious lines, and India's relationship with other nations. Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi believed the Jews had a good case and a prior claim for Israel, but opposed the creation of Israel on religious or mandated terms. India voted against the Partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel's admission to the United Nations in 1949. Various proponents of Hindu nationalism supported or sympathised with the creation of Israel. Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar supported the creation of Israel on both moral and political grounds, and condemned India's vote at the UN against Israel. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar admired Jewish nationalism and believed Palestine was the natural territory of the Jewish people, essential to their aspiration for nationhood.
On 17 September 1950, India officially recognised the State of Israel. Following India's recognition of Israel, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru stated, "we would have [recognised Israel] long ago, because Israel is a fact. We refrained because of our desire not to offend the sentiments of our friends in the Arab countries." In 1953, Israel was permitted to open a consulate in Bombay (now Mumbai). However, the Nehru government did not want to pursue full diplomatic relations with Israel as it supported the Palestinian cause, and believed that permitting Israel to open an embassy in New Delhi would damage relations with the Arab world.
From India's recognition of Israel in 1950 to the early 1990s, the relationship remained informal in nature. India's opposition to official diplomatic relations with Israel stemmed from both domestic and foreign considerations. Domestically, politicians in India feared losing the Muslim vote if relations were normalised with Israel. Additionally, India did not want to jeopardise the large amount of its citizens working in Arab States of the Persian Gulf, who were helping India maintain its foreign-exchange reserves. India's domestic need for energy was another reason for the lack of normalisation of ties with Israel, in terms of safeguarding the flow of oil from Arab nations. India's foreign policy goals and alliances also proved problematic to formal relations with Israel, including India's support for the pro-Palestine Liberation Organization Non-Aligned Movement, India's tilt towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and India's desire to counter Pakistan's influence with the Arab states. On an ideological level, the dominant political party in India during this era, namely the Indian National Congress, opposed Israel due to their perception that it was a state based on religion, analogous to Pakistan.
Although there was no formal relationship for several decades, meetings and cooperation took place between both countries, including figures such as Moshe Dayan. Israel also provided India with crucial information during its multiple wars. After decades of non-aligned and pro-Arab policy, India formally established relations with Israel in January 1992 and ties between the two nations have flourished since, primarily due to common strategic interests and security threats. The formation of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which allegedly neglected the sentiments of Indian Muslims, and the blocking of India by Pakistan from joining the OIC are considered to be the causes of this diplomatic shift. On a diplomatic level, both the countries have managed to maintain healthy relations despite India's repeated strong condemnations of Israeli military actions in Palestinian territories, which are believed by analysts to be motivated by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's desire for Muslim votes in India.
Relations between the two countries received a boost after the election of the Narendra Modi government in 2014. Following a state visit to India in 2016, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stated, "Since Modi has been the head of government, he has changed the strategy of India when it comes to the relationship with Israel."
2014 Israel-Hamas conflictEdit
At the height of the tension between Israel and Hamas in July India offered a rhetorical condemnation holding both sides responsible for erupting violence and asked Israel to stop "disproportionate use of force" in Gaza which was read by many as departure from tradition of more vocal supports for the Palestinian cause. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj insisted that "there is absolutely no change in India's policy towards Palestine, which is that we fully support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel. " clarifying India's current position on the issue. While that might sound to some like fence-sitting, it is a policy shared by all Indian governments over the past 20 years following the establishment of formal diplomatic relation in 1992.
Swaraj, a seasoned parliamentarian, had herself blocked the opposition demand in Rajya Sabha for passing a resolution condemning Israel for 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict by saying that "India has friendly relation with both Israel and Palestine and therefore any such move may impact its friendship negatively". Although later in a symbolic gesture India joined others BRICS nations in voting at the United Nations Human Rights Council for a probe into the alleged human rights violation in Gaza, which generated mixed response among media and analysts in India. When the UNHRC report alleging that Israel had committed war crimes was tabled for vote, India abstained from voting, one of five countries to do so. 41 nations voted in favour, and the United States was the only vote against. Israeli envoy to India Daniel Carmon thanked India for not supporting what he described as "another anti Israel bashing resolution".
Ezer Weizman became the first Israeli President to visit India in 1997. In 2000, Jaswant Singh became the first Indian Foreign Minister to visit Israel. Following the visit, the two countries set up a joint anti-terror commission. The foreign ministers of the two countries said intensified co-operation would range from counter-terrorism to information technology.
In 2003, Ariel Sharon was the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India. He was welcomed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance coalition government of India. Several newspapers expressed positive views on his visit, and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee voiced confidence that Sharon's visit would pave the way for further consolidating bilateral ties. Sharon's visit was condemned in leftist and Muslim circles. Hundreds of supporters of India's various pro-Islamic and communist parties rallied in New Delhi. Nearly 100 Muslims were arrested. Students of Aligarh Muslim University demanded that India severe ties with Israel and increase ties with Palestine. The Hindi-language daily Navbharat Times called Sharon "an important friend of India." The Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) condemned the protest against Sharon. Sharon expressed satisfaction over his talks with Indian leaders. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the visit would increase ties between India and Israel. Sharon invited Vajpayee to visit Israel. Sharon said that Israelis "regard India to be one of the most important countries in the world," and Vajpayee was sure that Sharon's visit would bring the two states closer together.
In early 2006 Indian government ministers Sharad Pawar, Kapil Sibal and Kamal Nath visited Israel. Former Gujarat Chief Minister and the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has also visited Israel. Despite "India's unwavering support for the Palestinian cause", Foreign Minister SM Krishna made a two-day visit to Israel in 2012. The Israeli PM deemed this visit by Krishna a historical step forward in developing the relations between the two nations.
In May 2014 after victory of Narendra Modi in 2014 general election Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu personally congratulated Modi. Modi in turn met his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in New York City on the sideline of the UN General Assembly during his US visit in 2014. This was the first meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries in over a decade. On the occasion of the Hanukkah festival, Indian PM Modi greeted his Israeli counterpart in Hebrew Language on Twitter while the Israeli PM replied in Hindi.
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Israel in November 2014 to observe the country's border security arrangements. During his tour he also met Israeli PM Netanyahu. Breaking from convention, Singh was the first Indian minister to visit Israel without also visiting Palestine on the same trip. In the same year, former Israeli President Shimon Peres visited India. A high level Israeli delegation with the Agriculture Minister of Israel, Yair Shamir, also participated in the Vibrant Gujarat summit in 2015. In December 2014 a news published in The Hindu that India may end support to Palestine.
In February 2015 Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon came to India. During his visit he participated in Aero India 2015. He also met his Indian counterpart, as well as the Indian PM. Pranab Mukherjee became the first Indian President to visit Israel from October 13 to 15, 2015. Mukherjee was given the rare honour of addressing the Knesset. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Israel in January 2016. During the visit, she visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, members of the cabinet, and the Indian Jewish communities in Israel.
In September 2016, Minister of Agriculture (India), Radha Mohan Singh visited Israel to bolster India-Israel agricultural ties. He met his Israeli counterpart Uri Ariel, where the discussion concerned about collaborative opportunities in agriculture between both the countries. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited India for a week-long state visit in November 2016, becoming the second Israeli President to visit the country. Rivlin visited New Delhi, Agra, Karnal, Chandigarh and Mumbai. He spent the last day of his visit in Mumbai paying homage to the victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and meeting with the Indian Jewish community. Israel currently regards Iran as a major threat to its national security, and Rivlin expressed this concern in meetings with Prime Minister Modi. Following his visit, Rivlin told Israel media that despite growing economic ties with both countries, the Indian government had assured him that India would support Israel despite the former's relations with Iran. Rivlin told The Jerusalem Post, "They assure us that when the time will come they will never, never, ever let anyone [act against] the existence of Israel."
Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Israel in July 2017, the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the country. Modi is not scheduled to visit Palestine during the trip, breaking from convention. With the sole exception of Union Minister Rajnath Singh, previous trips by Indian ministers and President Mukherjee included visits to both Israel and Palestine. The Indian media described the move as the "de-hyphenation" of India's relations with the two states.
Military and strategic tiesEdit
India and Israel have increased co-operation in military and intelligence ventures since the establishment of diplomatic relations. The rise of Islamic extremist terrorism in both nations has generated a strong strategic alliance between the two. India recently launched a military satellite for Israel through its Indian Space Research Organisation.
In 1997, Israel's President Ezer Weizman became the first head of the Jewish state to visit India. He met with Indian President Shankar Dayal Sharma, Vice President K R Narayanan and Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda. Weizman negotiated the first weapons deal between the two nations, involving the purchase of Barak 1 vertically-launched surface-to-air (SAM) missiles from Israel. The Barak-1 has the ability to intercept anti-ship missiles such as the Harpoon. The purchase of the Barak-1 missiles from Israel by India was a tactical necessity since Pakistan had purchased Lockheed P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft and 27 Harpoon sea-skimming anti-ship missiles from the United States. Israel was one of the selected few nations, a group that also included France and Russia, that did not condemn India's 1998 Pokhran-II nuclear tests.
In naval terms, Israel sees great strategic value in an alliance with the Indian Navy, given India's dominance of South Asian waters. Due to the great importance of maritime trade to the Israeli economy it thus sees the potential of establishing a logistical infrastructure in the Indian Ocean with the help of the Indian Navy. In 2000, Israeli submarines reportedly conducted test launches of cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in the waters of the Indian Ocean, off the Sri Lankan coast.
In 1996, India purchased 32 IAI Searcher unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Electronic Support Measure sensors and an Air Combat Manoeuvering Instrumentation simulator system from Israel. Since then Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has serviced several large contracts with the Indian Air Force including the upgrading of the IAF's Russian-made MiG-21 ground attack aircraft and there have been further sales of unmanned aerial vehicles as well as laser-guided bombs.
India purchased three Phalcon AWACS, fitted with IAI radar equipment mounted on Russian IL-76 transport aircraft, in 2003 at cost of $1 billion. In September 2016, the Indian government approved the purchase of two more Phalcon AWACS. India purchased 50 Israeli drones for $220 million in 2005. India was considering buying the newer Harop drone. India is also in the process of obtaining missile-firing Hermes 450s.
Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd signed a US$2.5 billion deal with India in 2007 to develop an anti-aircraft system and missiles for the country, in the biggest defence contract in the history of Israel at the time. IAI CEO Yitzhak Nissan visited India to finalise the agreement with heads of the defence establishment and the country's president. IAI is developing the Barak 8 missile for the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force which is capable of protecting sea vessels and ground facilities from aircraft and cruise missiles. The missile has a range of over 70 kilometres. The missile will replace the current obsolete Russian system used by India.
On 10 November 2008, Indian military officials visited Israel to discuss joint weapons development projects, additional sales of Israeli equipment to the Indian military, and anti-terrorism strategies. The new round of talks was seen as a significant expansion in the Indian-Israeli strategic partnership.
Following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Israel offered a team of about 40 special-operations forces and assistance in investigations. Tzipi Livni said: "If they need us we will help where needed". Magen David Adom dispatched a team of paramedics, medics and other professionals to assist with rescue efforts in the wake of the attacks. Israeli newspapers reported that the Manmohan Singh government turned down an offer by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to send counter-terrorist units to help fight the attackers.
In December 2009, Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, made a visit to India to cement the defence ties between the two countries. He pledged every help to India in fighting terrorism.
In March 2011, it was reported that India would buy 8356 Israeli Spike anti-tank missiles, 321 launchers, 15 training simulators and peripheral equipment, for $1 billion, from Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The deal was finalised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after coming into office.
In September 2015, the Indian government approved the air force's request to purchase 10 Heron TP drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). In 2015 a delegation from Israel's Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs visited India, led by former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold. Shared strategic interests were discussed, including combatting radical Islam, the handling of territorial disputes, and the security situation in the Middle East and South Asia.
In October 2015, The Pioneer reported that India and Israel were planning to hold their first joint military exercise. The date and location were not announced.
When the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) was founded in September 1968 by Rameshwar Nath Kao, he was advised by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to cultivate links with Mossad. This was suggested as a countermeasure to military links between that of Pakistan and China, as well as with North Korea. Israel was also concerned that Pakistani army officers were training Libyans and Iranians in handling Chinese and North Korean military equipment.
Pakistan believed intelligence relations between India and Israel threatened Pakistani security. When young Israeli tourists began visiting the Kashmir valley in the early 1990s, Pakistan suspected they were disguised Israeli army officers there to help Indian security forces with anti-terrorism operations. Israeli tourists were attacked, with one slain and another kidnapped. Pressure from the Kashmiri Muslim diaspora in the United States led to the kidnapped tourist's eventual release. Kashmiri Muslims feared that the attacks could isolate the American Jewish community, and result in them lobbying the US government against Kashmiri separatist groups.
A Rediff story in 2003 revealed clandestine links between R&AW and Mossad. In 1996, R.K. Yadav, a former RAW official had filed a disproportionate assets case in the Delhi High Court against Anand Kumar Verma, RAW chief between 1987 and 1990. Yadav listed eight properties that he claimed were purchased illegally by Verma using RAW's unaudited funds for secret operations. Although his petition for a CBI inquiry into Verma's properties was dismissed, Yadav managed to obtain more information using in RTI in 2005 and filed another case in 2009. In 2013, the CBI carried out an investigation of Verma's properties. Proceedings in the Delhi High Court revealed the names of two companies floated by RAW in 1988 - Piyush Investments and Hector Leasing and Finance Company Ltd. The firms were headed by two senior RAW officials V. Balachandran and B. Raman. Balachandran and Raman retired in 1994 and 1995 respectively. The companies were listed as trading houses that dealt in several kinds of minerals, automobiles, textiles, metals and spare parts, and also claimed to produce feature films. The companies purchased two flats in Gauri Sadan, a residential building on Hailey Road, New Delhi in March 1989 for ₹23 lakh.
India Today reported that the two flats were RAW safe houses used as operational fronts for Mossad agents and housed Mossad's station chief between 1989 and 1992. RAW had reportedly decided to have closer ties to Mossad, and the subsequent secret operation was approved by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. India Today cites "RAW insiders" as saying that RAW agents hid a Mossad agent holding an Argentine passport and exchanged intelligence and expertise in operations, including negotiations for the release of an Israeli tourist by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front militants in June 1991. When asked about the case Verma refused to speak about the companies, but claimed his relationship with them was purely professional. Raman stated, "Sometimes, spy agencies float companies for operational reasons. All I can say is that everything was done with government approval. Files were cleared by the then prime minister [Rajiv Gandhi] and his cabinet secretary. Balachandran stated, "It is true that we did a large number of operations but at every stage, we kept the Cabinet Secretariat and the prime minister in the loop."
In November 2015, The Times of India reported that agents from Mossad and MI5 were protecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit Turkey. Modi was on a state visit to the United Kingdom and was scheduled to attend the 2015 G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey. The paper reported that the agents had been called in to provide additional cover to Modi's security detail, composed of India's Special Protection Group and secret agents from RAW and IB, in wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Bilateral trade between India and Israel grew from $200 million in 1992 to $4.52 billion in 2014. As of 2014, India is Israel's tenth-largest trade partner and import source, and seventh-largest export source. India's major exports to Israel include precious stones and metals, organic chemicals, electronic equipment, plastics, vehicles, machinery, engines, pumps, clothing and textiles, and medical and technical equipment. Israel's imports from India amounted to $2.3 billion or 3.2% of its overall imports in 2014. Israel's major exports to India include precious stones and metals, electronic equipment, fertilisers, machines, engines, pumps, medical and technical equipment, organic and inorganic chemicals, salt, sulphur, stone, cement, and plastics. Israeli exports to India amounted to $2.2 billion or 3.2% of its overall exports in 2014.
In 2007, Israel proposed starting negotiations on a free trade agreement with India, and in 2010, then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accepted that proposal. The agreement is set to focus on many key economic sectors, including information technology, biotechnology, water management, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture. In 2013, then Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett projected a doubling of trade from $5 to $10 billion between the two countries, if a free trade agreement was successfully negotiated. As of 2015, negotiations on a free trade agreement continue, with both countries considering negotiating a more narrow free trade agreement on goods, followed by separate agreements on trade in investment and services.
Israeli imports from India amounted to $2 billion or 3.5% of its overall imports in 2015. The 10 major commodities exported from India to Israel were:
- Gems, precious metals and coins: $973.6 million
- Organic chemicals: $296.5 million
- Electronic equipment: $121.2 million
- Medical, technical equipment: $59.3 million
- Plastics: $56.4 million
- Vehicles: $44.4 million
- Machinery: $38.1 million
- Other textiles, worn clothing: $31.8 million
- Knit or crochet clothing: $31.6 million
- Clothing (not knit or crochet): $30.8 million
Israeli exports to India amounted to $2.3 billion or 3.8% of its overall exports in 2015. The 10 major commodities exported from Israel to India were:
- Gems, precious metals and coins: $933.7 million
- Electronic equipment: $389.3 million
- Medical, technical equipment: $180.7 million
- Iron or steel products: $170.3 million
- Fertilisers: $157 million
- Machinery: $110.9 million
- Organic chemicals: $69.8 million
- Other chemical goods: $44.2 million
- Inorganic chemicals: $43.6 million
- Plastics: $29.5 million
Science and technology collaborationEdit
In 1993, during the visit to India of then Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, India and Israel signed an agreement on science and technology, which allowed for direct scientific cooperation between both governments. Specific areas of cooperation included information technology, biotechnology, lasers, and electro-optics. Additionally, a joint committee to monitor collaboration between the two nations was established and set to meet biennially. In 1994, a $3 million joint science and technology fund was set up to facilitate R&D collaboration between both countries.
In 1996, Indian scientists attended a seminar on advanced materials in Israel. In 1997, Israeli scientists attended a seminar on biotechnology in Delhi. In 1998, India and Israel had 22 ongoing joint research projects. A joint symposium on the human genome was held in Jerusalem, where six Indian scientists took part. In November 1999, India and Israel agreed on four proposals for joint research projects in the field of human genome research. In 2000, even more joint projects related to human genome research were agreed on, and a status seminar on this field was held in India. In early 1999, more than 20 Israeli scientists participated in a physics symposium on condensed matter in Delhi. In 2001, a similar symposium was held in Jerusalem, with 18 Indian scientists attending.
In 2003, both countries discussed doubling their investment in their ongoing science and technology collaboration to $1 million each, starting in October 2004. In 2005, India and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a fund to encourage bilateral investment into industrial research and development and specific projects. Under the agreement, at least one Indian and one Israeli company must be collaborating on a project for that project to qualify for the fund. From 2006 to 2014, the fund, named i4RD, has been used in seven projects. In 2012, the two countries signed a five-year $50 million academic research agreement for promoting collaborative research across a wide range of disciplines, including medical and information technology, social and life sciences, humanities, and the arts.
In 2012, Israel stated its intent to increase technological and economic cooperation with the Indian state of Bihar, in the fields of agriculture, water management, solar energy, and medical insurance. In 2014, Israel made plans to open two agricultural centers of excellence in Bihar, focusing on increasing productivity of vegetable and mango crops.
Israel has offered to help the India government with a project to clean the Ganga. An Israeli delegation visited India in August 2015 and met with officials of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon also called on Union Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu to offer Israel's expertise in water management to battle water scarcity. Ohad Horsandi, spokesperson of the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi stated that Israel was keen to help in India meet its water needs for agriculture and drinking, and was pushing for more government-to-government agreements.
In 2002, India and Israel signed a cooperative agreement promoting space collaboration between both nations.
In 2003, the Israel Space Agency, or ISA, expressed interest in collaborating with the Indian Space Research Organisation, or ISRO, in using satellites for improved management of land and other resources. Israel also expressed interest in participating in ISRO's proposed mission of sending an unmanned craft to the moon. Additionally, the two countries signed an agreement outlining the deployment of TAUVEX, an Israeli space telescope array, on India's GSAT-4, a planned navigation and communication satellite. In 2010, the TAUVEX array was removed from GSAT-4 by the ISRO, and the array was never subsequently launched. The GSAT-4 itself failed to launch, due to the failure of its cryogenic engine.
In 2005, Israel decided to launch TecSAR, its first synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite, on India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, or PSLV. TecSAR was chosen to launch through India's PSLV due to Israeli concerns about the reliability and technical limitations of its own Shavit space launch vehicle, economic considerations, and also due to Israel's desire to increase strategic cooperation with India. In 2008, TecSAR was successfully inserted into orbit by India's PSLV. One of TecSAR's primary functions is to monitor Iran's military activities.
In 2009, India successfully launched RISAT-2, a synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite. RISAT-2 was manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, or IAI, in conjunction with ISRO. The launch of the RISAT-2 satellite aimed to provide India with greater earth observation power, which would improve disaster management, and increase surveillance and defense capabilities. The acquisition and subsequent launch of the RISAT-2 satellite was accelerated after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, to boost India's future surveillance capabilities.
In 2008, Israel and India finalised an agricultural plan introducing crops native to the Middle East and Mediterranean to India, with a particular focus on olives. Subsequently, around 112,000 olive trees were planted in the desert of Rajasthan. In 2014, more than 100 tonnes of olives were produced in Rajasthan.
In 2008, Israel and India signed the Agriculture Cooperation Agreement, which established the Indo-Israel Agricultural Cooperation Project. The project's central aim is to utilize Israeli technology to increase crop productivity and diversity in various regions in India. The implementation of the project occurs through establishment of agricultural centers of excellence in India that focus on growing horticulture crops, producing seeds and cut-flowers, and also on beekeeping and dairy farming. As of 2015, 15 centers of excellence are fully operational, spanning 10 Indian states.
Cultural ties & cross-country perceptionsEdit
In 2011, cultural artists and performers from India arrived in Israel to participate in a three-week festival commemorating 20 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. According to India's then Ambassador to Israel Navtej Sarna, the purpose of the festival was to improve the bilateral relationship between the two countries by facilitating a greater understanding of each other's culture.
According to a 2009 international study commissioned by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the greatest level of sympathy towards Israel can be found in India, with 58% of Indian respondents showing sympathy towards Israel.
According to the 2014 BBC Country Ratings Poll, 9% of Israelis have a mainly positive view of India's influence, 34% have a mainly negative view, and 57% are neutral or gave another response. According to the same poll, 22% of Indians have a mainly positive view of Israel's influence, 34% have a mainly negative view, and 44% are neutral or gave another response.
Around 40,000 Israelis, many of whom have just finished military service, visit India annually. There are dozens of Chabad-operated community centers in India, where many Israelis celebrate holidays and observe religious traditions. Popular destinations for Israelis include Goa, the Himalayas, Old Manali, Vashisht, Naggar, Kasol, and the villages surrounding Dharamsala. In many of these areas, Hebrew signs on businesses and public transportation are widely noticeable.
The number of tourists from India visiting Israel touched 15,900 in the year 2000. By 2010, the number of tourists had increased to 43,439. In 2014, the number of tourists from India visiting Israel was 34,900. A popular destination for Indian tourists traveling to Israel is Jerusalem. In part of 2010, Indian tourists were the biggest spenders in Israel, spending an average of $1,364 per tourist; the average tourist expenditure in Israel during this time was $1,091.
In 2011, representatives from both countries met in Delhi, and planned to enhance tourism through collaboration in the spheres of destination management and promotion, as well as in manpower development. Plans for tour-operators and travel agents in both countries to coordinate were also discussed. In 2015, 600 travel agents from India arrived in Israel for the annual Travel Agents Federation of India conference, and ways to decrease barriers to tourism were discussed.
In February 2007, the first Jewish-Hindu interfaith leadership summit was held in New Delhi. The summit included the then Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger, the American Jewish Committee's International Director of Interreligious Affairs David Rosen, a delegation of chief rabbis from around the world, and Hindu leaders from India. During the summit, Rabbi Metzger stated:
“Jews have lived in India for over 2,000 years and have never been discriminated against. This is something unparalleled in human history."
In August 2007, amidst protests, a delegation of Indian Muslim leaders and journalists traveled to Israel. The visit was touted as a dialogue of democracies, and was organised by the American Jewish Committee's India office. During this trip, Maulana Jameel Ahmed Ilyasi, the then secretary-general of the All-India Association of Imams and Mosques, praised the mutual respect Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews have for each other, and encouraged resolving problems by dialogue rather than violence. Muslim leaders met with then president Shimon Peres, where Peres highlighted the coexistence of religions in Jerusalem and India's struggle with terror and separatism.
In 2008, a second Hindu-Jewish summit took place in Jerusalem. Included in the summit was a meeting between Hindu groups and then Israeli President Shimon Peres, where the importance of a strong Israeli-Indian relationship was discussed. The Hindu delegation also met with Israeli politicians Isaac Herzog and Majalli Wahabi. Hindu groups visited and said their prayers at the Western Wall, and also paid their respects to Holocaust victims.
In 2009, a smaller Hindu-Jewish interfaith meeting organised by the Hindu American Foundation and the American Jewish Committee was held in New York City and Washington. Hindu and Jewish representatives gave presentations, and participants wore lapel pins combining the Israeli, Indian, and American flags.
On November 2012, Israeli President Shimon Peres remarked, "I think India is the greatest show of how so many differences in language, in sects can coexist facing great suffering and keeping full freedom."
Judaism in IndiaEdit
The history of the Jewish people in India dates back to ancient times. Judaism was one of the first foreign religions to arrive in India in recorded history. Indian Jews are a religious minority of India, but unlike many parts of the world, have historically lived in India without any instances of antisemitism from the local majority populace, the Hindus. The better-established ancient communities have assimilated a large number of local traditions through cultural diffusion. The Jewish population in India is hard to estimate since each Jewish community is distinct with different origins; while some allegedly arrived during the time of the Kingdom of Judah, others are seen by some as descendants of Israel's Ten Lost Tribes. In addition to Jewish expatriates and recent immigrants, there are several distinct Jewish groups in India:
- Cochin Jews, also called Malabar Jews, are of Mizrahi and Sephardi heritage. They are the oldest group of Jews in India, with possible roots claimed to date to the time of King Solomon. The Cochin Jews settled in the Kingdom of Cochin in South India.
- The so-called "Spanish and Portuguese Jews" , Paradesi Jews and British Jews arrived at Madras during the 16th century, mainly as traders and diamond businessmen. They also have a large presence in the former Portuguese colony of Goa, where the Goan Inquisition was initiated in 1560.
- The Bene Israel arrived in the state of Maharashtra 900 years ago. Another branch of the Bene Israel community, resided in Karachi until the Partition of India in 1947, when they fled to India (in particular: Mumbai). Many of them also moved to Israel. The Jews from Sindh, Punjab or Pathan area are often incorrectly called Bani Israel Jews. The Jewish community who used to reside in other parts of what became Pakistan (such as Lahore or Peshawar) also fled to India in 1947, in a similar manner to the larger Karachi Jewish community.
- The Baghdadi Jews arrived in the city of Surat from Iraq (and other Arab states), Iran and Afghanistan about 250 years ago.
- The Bnei Menashe are Mizo and Kuki tribesmen in Manipur and Mizoram who are recent converts to Judaism.
- The Bene Ephraim (also called "Telugu Jews") are a small group who speak Telugu; their observance of Judaism dates to 1981.
The majority of Indian Jews have "made Aliyah" (migrated) to Israel since the creation of the modern state in 1948. Over 70,000 Indian Jews now live in Israel (over 1% of Israel's total population). Of the remaining 5,000, the largest community is concentrated in Mumbai, where 3,500 have stayed over from the over 30,000 Jews registered there in the 1940s, divided into Bene Israel and Baghdadi Jews, though the Baghdadi Jews refused to recognize the B'nei Israel as Jews, and withheld dispensing charity to them for that reason. There are reminders of Jewish localities in Kerala still left such as Synagogues.
In the beginning of the 21st century, new Jewish communities have been established in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, and other cities in India. The new communities have been established by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement which has sent rabbis to create those communities. The communities serve the religious and social needs of Jewish business people who have immigrated or visiting India, and Jewish backpackers touring India. The largest centre is the Nariman House in Mumbai.
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