US India Global Review 2018

32 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW APRIL-JUNE 2018 I sraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a historic visit to India last week - only the second time an Israeli prime minister has come to the country. It followed Narendra Modi's momentous July 2017 visit to Israel, the first ever by an Indian prime minister. Israel and India were once ideological oppo- nents; India did not recognize Israel for two years after its inde- pendence in 1948 and long viewed it with suspicion on the grounds that it was a religious eth- nostate similar to Pakistan. The Cold War kept them diplomatically estranged, and it wasn't until 1992 that they established full diplomat- ic relations. In the 26 years since, much has changed. Whereas ide- ological disagreements once seemed to keep the two countries at arm's length, they now find themselves in an ever-closer embrace - and as last week's events made clear, policy dis- agreements will not be permitted to stand in the way. Nurtured by successive govern- ments in both New Delhi and Jerusalem, bilateral ties have grown rapidly, driven largely by a rapid expansion of defense ties. Israel has supplied India with criti- cal military equipment, including airborne early warning and control systems, drones, and border security solutions. India is now one of the largest customers for the Israeli defense industry, with an estimated $1 billion in annual defense deals, according to reports. Indian policymakers tend to downplay the strategic aspects of the relationship. Whenever defense ministers are asked about Israeli defense ties in Parliament, the stock reply is that such infor- mation could not be revealed due to "national security considera- tions." But there was nothing coy about Netanyahu's visit. The public display of warmth so evident during both Modi's and Netanyahu's visits highlights the massive stakes of the relationship in recent times. Israel continues to be a critical partner when it India and Israel: Modi and Bibi are brothers in arms By S. Samuel C. Rajiv LOOKING WEST Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi