Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna will arrive Monday – the highest level
Indian official to visit in 12 years – for three days of talks marking 20 years
of Israeli-Indo diplomatic ties.
RELATED:'Israel to export natural gas to India' Program to bring 100 Indian post-doc students to Israel
Krishna’s visit comes as Israeli-Indian
bilateral ties are flourishing, with civilian trade reaching $5 billion in 2011,
compared to $200 million when the ties were established 20 years ago. In
addition to the civilian trade, there is enormous military trade, with Israel
selling billions of dollars of military equipment each year to India –including
UAVs, missiles and command and control systems.
Israel is widely believed
to be India’s largest supplier of arms, with India one of the largest markets
for Israeli weapons in the world. The Indian purchases, according to Israeli
sources, provide critical oxygen for Israel’s military-industrial complex,
something key to Israel’s ability to continue developing state-of-the-art
weaponry critical for its own security.
Diplomatic officials acknowledged
that while trade ties were flourishing, there was less agreement on Iran and on
diplomatic issues, with India traditionally supporting the Palestinians and
voting against Israel consistently in international forums.
instance, was one of the countries on the 15-member Security Council that made
clear – along with China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa and Lebanon – that it
would have voted for a Palestinian state had the issue reached that body in
Israeli officials acknowledge that to a large extent Jerusalem
has chosen to overlook India’s “disappointing” voting record at the UN,
rationalizing that this is the price New Delhi pays its 150-million strong
Muslim population for the country’s very robust bilateral relationship with
India has the world’s second largest Muslim population, after
Regarding Iran, New Delhi stresses that it has voted for all
the international sanctions against Iran up until now. However, it has not
ratcheted up sanctions, as has the US and Europe, largely because it imports
fully 14 percent of all its oil from Iran. Last year it was Iran’s second
largest export market, after China.
Krishna will be arriving from Jordan,
and is scheduled to meet President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He is also scheduled to go to
Yad Vashem, and visit an Indian War Cemetery in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood
that contains the graves of some 79 Indian soldiers killed in World War
In addition, Krishna will spend a few hours in Ramallah on Wednesday,
where he is expected to meet Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
On his way home that evening he is scheduled to stop in Dubai for meetings
India’s interest in the Middle East stems largely from its huge
dependence on oil. One of the issues that is expected to be discussed during
Krishna’s visit is the recent Israeli natural gas finds – along with the fact
that it has some six million people living in the region, from Egypt to Bahrain,
Dubai and Saudi Arabia. The money these workers send back home is a major source
of tax revenue for some Indian states.
The last Indian foreign minister
to visit Israel was Jaswat Singh in 2000. Ariel Sharon made the first ever visit
by an Israeli prime minister to India in 2003, a trip that was cut short by a
day because Sharon rushed to return to Israel following a spate of terrorist
Some argue that Sharon’s visit, not yet reciprocated by an
Indian prime minister, was a high mark in Indo-Israeli relations, and that after
the Hindi nationalist BJP party was replaced the following year by the Congress
party, India preferred to carry out the relations further from the public
Yet in the eight years since Sharon’s visit, trade has grown from
some $1.6b. a year to its current level of $5b., an indication that the
bilateral relationship has not only survived but flourished under the Congress
party. And although the Indian prime minister has not visited, several Indian
ministers dealing with economic, trade and communications issues have visited
Israel, and Israel’s finance, tourism, agriculture, public security and trade
ministers have visited India over the last two years.
Observers who watch
the relationship closely said that following the 11 coordinated shooting and
bombing attacks in Mumbai in 2008, including the attack on the local Chabad
House, there has been a great deal of cooperation on homeland security issues,
both at the governmental level and between the private
Furthermore, with India adding some 20 million new cellphone
users each month, the telecommunications industry is one area of rapidly
developing ties between the two countries.