India's New PM: 'Israel's Best Friend in South Asia'
India’s Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi’s record shows he is serious about strengthening ties with Israel, according to an Israel National News analysis.
The Israeli government seems to agree. "On Friday, I spoke with the Prime Minister-elect of India. There, too, there is a clear expression of the desire to deepen and develop economic ties with the State of Israel," Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday.
The International Business Times deemed Modi “Israel's best friend in South Asia” in discussing the expected intensification of India-Israel ties. Modi, the right-wing, pro-Hindu nationalist and chief of the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has a long record of cultivating political and trade links with the state of Israel. That policy has been a financial boon for the industrialised western Indian province of Gujarat, where Modi has served as chief minister for the past 13 years.
During Modi’s tenure, Israel has invested billions of dollars into Gujarat. Delegations from both Gujarat and Israel have visited each other over the past few years to deepen trade and economic links. Ongoing mutual endeavors include projects in industrial research and development, solar and thermal power, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, water recycling and water desalination plants. In January, Israel announced that it had established a joint technology fund with India which will foster further cooperation between Israel and Gujarat-based companies.
Analysts have posited that Modi’s ascent to the prime ministry means India's ties to Israel will expand dramatically. Though it was a Congress Party government that established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, it was under a BJP-led government from 1999 to 2004 that Indian ties with Israel took off.
India and Israel have some overlap in terms of their security concerns; their shared role as victim of Islamic terror is an underlying theme in their relationship. In addition, Israel has called for India to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and BJP has praised Israel as a bulwark against Islamic terrorism. India, in recent years, has also bought military equipment from Israel.
In 2009, India bought the Phalcon tactical and surveillance system from Israel, as part of a 1.1 billion dollar deal. Israel also announced plans at the time to establish five factories in India for the production of artillery shells. In December, India purchased 15 drones from Israel in an effort to boost security along its borders with Pakistan and China.