India and Israel, the maturing of a steady relationship

  • IASbaba
  • March 22, 2022
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  • GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

India and Israel, the maturing of a steady relationship

Context: Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will visit India starting April 2 to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

  • Israel opened its embassy in New Delhi on February 1, 1992. The Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv opened on May 15, 1992.

History of India-Israel relationship

  • India had recognised Israel as far back as 1950 but normalisation took another four decades.
  • India was reluctant about its ties with Israel as 
    • India balanced this with its historical support for the Palestinian cause, 
    • India’s dependence on the Arab world for oil, 
    • Pro-Palestinian sentiments of the country’s Muslim citizens.
  • From 1992, the relationship took a different role where there were defence deals, and co-operation in science, technology and agriculture
  • The first high-level visits took place only after the NDA-1 under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took office. In 2000, L K Advani became the first Indian minister to visit Israel. That year, the two countries set up a joint anti-terror commission.
  • In 2003, Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India.
  • PM Modi’s visit to Israel in 2017 was the first by an Indian Prime Minister, and with that, he took full ownership of a relationship that had mostly grown under the radar for over a quarter century.
  • With the 2020 Abrahamic Accords that saw the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco normalising relations with Israel, and India’s own newly strengthened ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, India is now more confident about its key relationships in West Asia than at any other time.

How has India’s relationship with Palestine evolved over the years?

  • Earlier, the relationship with Palestine was almost an article of faith in Indian foreign policy for over four decades. 
  • India backed the Palestinian right to self-determination and rallied behind the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and its leader Yasser Arafat 
  • In 1975, India invited PLO to open an office in Delhi, giving it diplomatic status five years later. 
  • In 1988, when the PLO declared an independent state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, India granted recognition immediately. 
  • During the UPA’s 10 years in office, Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority that administers the West Bank, visited four times — in 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2012.
  • India voted for Palestine to become a full member of UNESCO in 2011.
  • In 2012, India co-sponsored the UN General Assembly resolution that enabled Palestine to become a “non-member” observer state at the UN without voting rights.
  • India also supported the installation of the Palestinian flag on the UN premises in September 2015, a year after Modi became Prime Minister.
  • In 2021 UN Security Council discussion on the Israel-Palestine violence India’s statement virtually held Israel responsible for the violence, and expressed India’s “strong” support to the “just Palestinian cause” and “unwavering” support for the two-state solution.
  • At the UNHRC’s 46th session in Geneva earlier in 2021, India voted against Israel in three resolutions – 
    • on the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people; 
    • on Israeli settlement policy; and 
    • on the human rights situation in the Golan Heights.

Has there been any shift in India-Palestine relationship?

  • The growing relationship between India and Israel has eroded what once used to be New Delhi’s unequivocal support for the Palestinian cause
  • The first big shift in India’s policy came during the visit of Mahmoud Abbas in 2017 when India in a statement dropped the customary line in support of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. 
  • When Modi visited Israel, his itinerary did not include Ramallah, as had been the practice by other visiting dignitaries.
    • But the balancing act continued. Modi made a separate visit to Ramallah in February 2018, and called for an independent Palestinian state.


India continues to walk a tightrope between its historical ties with Palestine and its more recent affection for Israel.

Connecting the dots:

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