Narendra Modi, making the first visit to Israel this week by any Indian prime minister, sat down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to finalize billion-dollar deals that make India the single largest purchaser of Israeli arms. The two countries also signed seven Memorandums of Understanding strengthening their partnerships on counterterrorism, agriculture, water supply, and space technology.
“This is a marriage made in heaven, but we are implementing it here on earth,” Netanyahu said at a joint press conference with Modi on Wednesday in Tel Aviv. Modi, meanwhile, reciprocated with his remarks on their partnership to fight terrorism: “India has suffered first-hand the violence and hatred spread by terror, so has Israel. PM Netanyahu and I have agreed to do much more together to protect our strategic interests and also cooperate to fight growing radicalization.”
So what is driving India closer to Israel?
India, which in recent years has voted against Israel’s interests at the U.N., appears to be changing course under the new Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government. Modi’s pragmatism and global ambitions have been attributed as significant factors in his warming up to Israel. An editorial from First Post, a popular Indian online magazine, acknowledged this reorientation of India’s foreign policy:
We see here a gradual, calibrated shift—not a sudden one—necessitated by several factors such as a more realistic approach towards foreign policy, an understanding of India and Israel’s growing interdependence, New Delhi’s strategic anxieties arising out of China’s rise, the coagulating Sino-Russian-Pakistan axis and a refusal to view bilateral ties solely through the spectrum of Palestinian cause.
Modi, who has described India in “a leading role, rather than just a balancing force, globally,” has been making the country’s presence on the global arena known in recent months. During his latest visit to the White House to meet President Trump, Modi was able to secure a number of contracts bolstering India’s defense capabilities and bilateral trade. Since coming into office after India’s 2014 general elections, Modi has conducted a staggering 66 foreign visits, which the government has touted as garnering huge successes for the country’s economy and military. And on Friday, an Indian delegation led by Modi will participate in the G-20 summit in Germany.