India at 72: Why India-Israel Relations Matter

As millions of Indians in the subcontinent and the diaspora mark the 72nd Independence Day, bilateral ties between India and Israel are at an all time high. Diplomatic relations, established a quarter of a century ago, have paved the way for a wide-ranging cooperation in the areas of defense, commerce and technology.

Last month, both countries launched a $40 million joint research fund aimed at promoting private sector cooperation in fields ranging from affordable healthcare to improving telecommunications networks. Small as the governmental initiative may be, it is designed to act as an incubator for jointly developed solutions with commercial viability and industrial demands in mind.

The Indian private sector has already taken steps in this direction. Indian multinational Tata Group is working on a similar model with Tel Aviv University (TAU), translating academic research into industrial solutions. The conglomerate currently manages a $5 million fund at TAU’s technology transfer company Ramot and mulls scaling it up to $20 million.

Venture capital arms of Indian information technology firms such as Infosys, Mahindra Tech and Wipro are also eyeing the Israeli start-up ecosystem for disruptive technology solutions and talent.

This technology cooperation also extends to agriculture and irrigation. MASHAV, Israel’s international development agency, runs 15 agriculture technology centers, or Centers of Excellence (CoE) as they are formally known, across India. Under the India-Israel Agriculture Project (IIAP), MASHAV plans to add 12 more centers, taking their number to 27.

This partnership has been further strengthened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking charge almost 4 years ago. With PM Modi-led nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s ascent to power in New Delhi and in a majority of Indian states, long-standing popular support for the Jewish State has finally been translated into government policy. This transition has not been without its ‘highs and lows’. In recent years, we have seen a series of historical visits by leaders from both the counties, but also witnessed India’s unwillingness to vote against a slew of resolutions sponsored by Arab and Muslim countries. The Indian government continues to hand out millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority, a body that sponsors terrorism aimed at Israeli citizens.

The globally active anti-Israel boycott movement, or BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement), is increasingly extending its tentacles in India, finding fertile ground within the far-left student groups and trade unions. Their calls for boycott have so far gone unheeded, but growing ties between Israel and India are only going to make their voices more shrill.

Creeping anti-Israel activism or foreign policy setbacks are not a call for pessimism, but a call to arms. Our support for Israel is not rooted in passive sentimentality, but in an unflinching commitment to our shared civilizational values. As I told a gathering of 70,000 Indians at a pro-Israel rally in Calcutta earlier this year, to support Israel is to learn from Israel: to emulate her success rooted in the egalitarian and progressive values of Zionism; to root out the discriminatory caste-distinctions, and to sow the seeds of individual liberty and scientific inquiry.

As we celebrate India’s 72nd Independence Day, we reflect on what our two great nations have achieved together and look at the promises that lie ahead. Our mutual ties are not merely about burgeoning trade volumes or corporate milestones, they are about aspiring for a shared civilizational dream. In standing up for the state of Israel and the Jewish people, we stand up for ourselves.


Vijeta Uniyal

Author is an Indian journalist based in Germany. In 2012 he founded "Indian For Israel", an Indian Diaspora initiative to combat antisemitism in Europe and foster stronger Israel-India ties. He graduated from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has worked for over 15 years in government and private sector. He is Senior Distinguished Fellow at New York-based Gatestone Institute.