Encouraging moves in India-Israel partnership

The UN’s decision that objected to granting consultative status to Shahed was adopted by a vote of 28-15, with 5 abstentions. It can also be seen as the defeat of the terrorists’ fantasies as well.

June 15, 2019 21:55
Encouraging moves in India-Israel partnership

PRIME MINISTER of India Narendra Modi looks on during his 2017 visit to Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signs a document of cooperation.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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India’s decision to stand with Israel on a crucial UN resolution that denied observer status to the Palestinian NGO Shahed made several headlines across the region.

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s official statement, “Shahed is a Palestinian organization based in Lebanon that claims to deal with human rights and humanitarian issues, but in practice is an organization that Israel has declared a terrorist organization and in fact operates as an arm of the Hamas terror organization in Lebanon.” In the context of Middle East conflicts, the name of the NGO is itself controversial and similar to the Palestinian concept of a shahid (martyr), which – according to some experts – radical Shi’ites have propagated as a model of 21st-century Islamic terrorism.

The UN’s decision that objected to granting consultative status to Shahed was adopted by a vote of 28-15, with 5 abstentions. It can also be seen as the defeat of the terrorists’ fantasies as well.

This month, prior to the UN vote, the India-Israel partnership witnessed another important move, which could not make many headlines but is almost equally significant: the beginning of the cooperation between India’s and Israel’s financial markets. Recently, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India and chairwoman of the Israel Securities Authority discussed the possibilities of dual listing of companies on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange, the raising of corporate bonds and combating insider trading. Credit for designing the idea of leveraging such a unique potential should go to Ron Malka, the new ambassador to India, who brought with him a rich experience of financial markets, investment and the functioning of the stock exchange too.

Both of these moves have sustained the momentum of the previous juncture of this partnership. A long phase of traditional and monotonous exchanges between both countries ended in 2017 with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel, which can also be seen as the beginning of the Modi-Netanyahu era, the most promising phase of the India-Israel partnership.

This new era started on a high note and generated a mutual sense that this combination is exceptional, and in certain domains, young and creative minds of both sides have the potential to introduce a different kind of trend. But in the initial stage, there was a gap in the shared outlook of both leaders and the approach of their teams. From the beginning, the message that Modi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have communicated through their exchanges and gestures is completely free from the baggage of the past, or one can say that it is a nonconventional approach of both leaders, which needs a similar nonconventional mindset to carry on.

Modi, whom Netanyahu calls a revolutionary leader, is known for carving out new paths rather than following traditional routes, whether it’s economy, diplomacy, security or social transformation, which some people refer to as the Modi doctrine or the Modi model of governance. His thumping victory in the 2019 election is a testimony to the success of the creative disruptions that he introduced in a country of 1.3 billion people.

Modi’s win is magnificent in many ways. India is a country with 900 million registered voters, out of which more than 600 million exercised their voting rights in the world’s largest electoral process recently, through more than a million polling stations spanning 29 states and 7 union territories. Through his sheer hard work, a tremendous report card and “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas” (collective efforts and inclusive growth) principles, Modi won the trust of 1.3 billion people again, something that is now a case study for many nations in the world.
On the other hand, Netanyahu, who received a mandate but could not succeed in finding common ground with his coalition partners to form a new government for the fourth consecutive term, is also on the radar of some political analysts all over the world.

But those who are discussing his electoral crisis are ignoring the fact that the way that Netanyahu has sustained a strong political position even in his fourth consecutive term – and overall a fifth term – is itself a big achievement in the democratic world. It also demonstrates that irrespective of his bold and nonconventional approach in economic and foreign policy matters, the hopes of a majority of Israelis are still with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s reciprocal visit to India in January 2018 and its overwhelming response created an urgency to explore nontraditional sectors of cooperation, as it was felt that the routine pace of exchanges cannot do justice to the existing potential, particularly at a time when the chemistry between both leaders is on a new level.

The appointment of Malka as the ambassador to India in the middle of 2018 can be seen as an acknowledgment of the urgency of a nontraditional approach in this partnership. Malka’s initial acts were more aligned with the nonconventional approach of both countries’ leadership. As soon as he started his stint officially, he led the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Israel Chemicals Ltd. and Indian Potash Ltd.

He is exploring the possibilities of collaborating in some untapped sectors, such as oil and gas, renewable energy, healthcare, small- and medium-sized enterprises cooperation, smart cities, pharmaceuticals and now financial markets, too.

He made a visit to northeastern India to explore the possibilities of facilitating the start-up ecosystem of India’s northeastern states and demonstrated his desire to aligning Israel with some of the ambitious goals of Modi’s government like doubling farmers’ income, healthcare for all, start-ups/Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises collaboration, water management and others.

One can say Malka’s nonconventional flavor is a much-needed element to leverage the real potential of this remarkable combination.

After receiving a historic mandate, Modi has coined a new mantra of India’s future growth, which he called NARA, where NA stands for National Ambitions and RA for Regional Aspirations. India’s next five-year growth plan will need a balanced combination of national ambitions and regional aspirations, both of which are going to be respected in every move of the new government.

To align with this vision of a new India, Israel will need to align its cooperation strategy on two levels – city and state, and being a mature partner, Israel has a unique advantage of cooperating effectively in some national-level ambitious goals as well as regional- or state-level aspiring projects.

In the coming days, a nonconventional outlook that we have seen in these two recent moves will prove to be a key in finding the unique opportunities in India-Israel partnership.

The writer promotes advanced technologies, start-up ecosystem and the Indian government’s business- and technology-related initiatives like Digital India, Make in India, Smart Cities, Start-Up India.

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