US India Global Review 2018

33 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW APRIL-JUNE 2018 comes to fulfilling the moderniza- tion needs of India's armed forces - essential to tackle looming exter- nal and internal threats. Israeli expertise spanning areas such as water, agriculture, and innovation is a perfect fit with India's massive developmental agenda - and unlike the sensitivities that sur- round defense cooperation, there is nothing to hide when it comes to agriculture. Israel's success in cultivating robust and lucrative ties with a major regional powerhouse like India has also been a feather in the cap of successive Israeli gov- ernments. Given its location in a region surrounded by adversaries, Israel has invested efforts in developing new relationships with emerging powers in Asia and beyond. Netanyahu often high- lights the fact that Israel has become an indispensable security and developmental partner for many countries worldwide. The countries also face a com- mon enemy. The Israeli prime min- ister's trip to the Chabad House in Mumbai (which was a target of Pakistani militants in November 2008) starkly reaffirmed the dan- gers posed to both countries by radical Islamists. The joint state- ment issued by the two govern- ments on Jan. 15 advocated "strong measures against terror- ists, terror organizations, those who sponsor, encourage or finance terrorism or provide sanc- tuary to terrorists and terror groups." But all of this bilateral bonhomie has obscured significant policy dif- ferences on some of the most contentious issues in the region. Netanyahu has expressed serious concerns about the efficacy of the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Even prior to the negotiation of that deal, he has been a robust advocate of military strikes on Iran. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs opposed that approach and instead lent its sup- port to diplomatic negotiations to address concerns emanating from Iran's nuclear program. Indeed, at the height of the Iranian nuclear imbroglio, India's oil imports and economic and defense coopera- tion with Iran were issues of major concern to Israeli ministers as well as Jewish-American advocacy groups. Today, Netanyahu's policy pre- scriptions vis-à-vis Iran continue to run counter to India's economic and diplomatic priorities. His "fix it or nix it" strategy toward the Iran deal will not be acceptable to the Modi government, whose foremost concern is stability in India's proxi- mate neighborhood - home to mil- lions of members of the Indian diaspora. India's dependence on West Asian energy sources is all too obvious; for instance, India imported over $9 billion worth of Iranian oil during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, more than twice the amount imported the year before. Iran is also an important con- duit for Indian development aid to Afghanistan. The recent shipment of Indian wheat to that country via the Iranian port of Chabahar demonstrates the critical role Iran plays in India's regional priorities. India's deputy foreign minister, M.J. Akbar, recently referred to Pakistan as the "largest wall in history," for blocking the transit of Indian goods to Afghanistan. It's no surprise, then, that just a few days prior to Netanyahu's visit, the Iranian transport minister was in India to sign deals worth $2 billion for the development of railways in Iran to enhance connectivity to Chabahar. In many other situations, funda- mental disagreements about a nation that one party sees as a sworn enemy might threaten to harm bilateral ties. After all, Netanyahu does not lose any opportunity in interactions with world leaders and on international platforms to paint the clerical "cult" ruling Tehran as dangerous for regional peace and stability. Yet with India and Israel, disagree- ments on Iran have not interrupted their increasingly close embrace. Netanyahu did not bring up the Iranian threat in remarks at his joint press conference with Modi. And, in response to a specific question from an Indian journalist, a top Indian foreign ministry offi- cial said that while regional and multilateral issues were dis- cussed, the Iran nuclear deal was not discussed "in any specific manner." Netanyahu seems to realize that India has its own interests Today, Netanyahu's policy prescriptions vis-à-vis Iran continue to run counter to India's economic and diplomatic priorities. His "fix it or nix it" strategy toward the Iran deal will not be acceptable to the Modi government, whose foremost concern is stability in India's prox- imate neighborhood - home to millions of members of the Indian diaspora.