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ANALYSIS India-Israel ties step out into the open

After 25 years of full diplomatic ties, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit to Israel commencing Tuesday can be seen as the official coming out of the relationship between the two countries.

While ties between Israel and India have grown exponentially since P.V Narasimha Rao and Yitzhak Shamir upgraded relations in 1992, Modi’s visit will be the first time that those relations will be on display and out in the open for all to see.

“We’ve been a bit bashful in the past about our relationship with Israel, and we’ve gotten over that and the degree of visibility that we’ve been showing for some time has been much higher and now coming with the PM visit, the formal coming out of the relationship,”  India’s envoy to Tel Aviv, Pavan Kapoor told the Indian television network NDTV ahead of Modi’s arrival.

Charu Sudan Kasturi, Assistant Editor of the Indian daily The Telegraph told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) the visit was a landmark not only because it was the first time than an Indian prime minister was visiting Israel but even more significantly because it sent a “very sharp signal that India is no longer embarrassed by the relationship.”

Kasturi noted that Modi will not be paying even a token visit to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, as senior Indian officials have done in the past, including President Pranab Mukherjee when he visited Israel in 2015.

Kapoor told NDTC  that India had “explained to our Palestinian friends that this is a visit to Israel, and they’re comfortable enough with that. We’ve reached a stage of maturity where we feel we can deal with both our friends in Palestine and Israel but keep the relationship independent of each other.”

It is a policy that Israeli officials have termed de-linking and Kasturi says a number of factors have enabled New Delhi to increase the visibility of its relations with Israel.

Firstly, he notes, Arab nations are themselves engaging with Israel and New Delhi has calculated that if countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are engaging with Israel at one level or another then there is no risk of alienating Arab countries as a result of open ties with Jerusalem.

Furthermore, he noted, as long as India pro forma provides aid and assistance to the Palestinians, domestic pressure from India’s large Muslim minority is no longer significant.

In addition,says Kasturi, “the current government [led by the Hindu BJP party] is not reliant on the Muslim vote and has the freedom to delink foreign policy from domestic considerations.”

As Israel and India look forward to the next 25 years of relations, Jerusalem can remain confident that ties will continue to grow and develop regardless of who is in power in New Delhi.

“It would be very difficult for any other party to roll back relations,” says Kasturi. “The relationship has broad bipartisan support although perhaps not all parties would be willing to show the extent of visibility that Modi is willing to extend.”