India votes in favour of raising Palestine flag at UN

In a move that is set to impart an added traction to the Palestinian cause, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing the Palestine and Vatican flag to be flown in the UN. India was among the 119 countries that voted in favour of the resolution. The issue of raising the flags of the non-member observer states who maintain permanent observer missions at the UN headquarters had been gaining momentum for a while. The US and Israel were among the eight countries that voted against the resolution, while 45 countries, including the UK and EU countries, abstained.

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Tel Aviv Beckons: What India’s public diplomacy means for the region

Even as India faces tough criticism from international observers for having abstained from voting on a recent UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution that condemns Israel’s actions during the July/August 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Israel in October and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intention to visit Tel Aviv in the near future marks a clear shift in the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.

Since the establishment of formal diplomatic ties in 1992 the two nations are often thought to be ‘isolated democracies’, as they continue to operate in highly militarised regional neighbourhoods and have a mutual benefit in fighting Islamic terrorism across borders in the Middle East. Strategic relations between the two nations have largely focused on the sale of defence equipment and technology, although agriculture and information technology also form a key aspect of India’s economic and trade relations with Israel. India is the largest buyer of Israeli defence equipment, and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has in the past developed and launched a military satellite for Israel. Similarly, some recent estimates from the Embassy of India in Tel Aviv suggest that bilateral trade between the two countries is set to cross $5 billion in the next few years. In this context, the strengthening of diplomatic ties under the BJP-led government in New Delhi points towards the fact that a more open rapprochement that is already underway.

It is possible to argue that while recent developments might have served to bring India’s strategic relations with Israel into focus, there has been no fundamental change in the relationship. Israel has been a strategic partner for India for the past decade and a more favourable diplomatic climate has presented itself at the most opportune moment for the Narendra Modi government to improve upon what has already been built by previous governments in New Delhi. The same can be argued in the case of India’s position on Palestine. Vikas Swarup, spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, recently spoke in defence of India’s decision to abstain from the UNHRC vote, and pointed out that India is still very firmly in support of the Palestinian cause. It is unclear, however, what aspect of the Palestinian cause has been most vehemently taken up by India at various international forums. More specifically, the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israeli Defence Forces and the grave human rights violations committed by the latter have been referred to as areas of concern by India, but the country has failed to take a firm stance on either issue at the United Nations.

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Israel upbeat about Modi visit

With India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announcing the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel, Tel Aviv has voiced confidence that the first-ever trip by an Indian leader will take India-Israel relations to new heights.

On May 31, Mrs Swaraj had stunned many when she said at her annual media interaction that the Indian prime minister will visit Israel, bringing one of India’s key relationships out the closet. Mr Modi’s visit will be preceded by Sushma Swaraj’s trip to Israel as well as Palestine and Jordon. Mrs Swaraj stressed that India’s policy towards Palestine hasn’t changed at all.

Israel is upbeat about an upswing in ties with India under the Modi government. Israel’s Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon welcomed his proposed visit, and said that the high level visits between the two countries were natural ingredients of further enhancing relationship between India and Israel.

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India, Israel to focus on defence deals, counter-terrorism

Shedding the veil of secrecy that has tended to envelop India-Israel relations, the Modi government is rolling out the red carpet for Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, a landmark trip that is set to impart a renewed momentum to the burgeoning defence relations between the two countries.
The importance of the trip is clear from the fact that it is the first trip by an Israeli defence minister to India since the two countries established full diplomatic ties in 1992.
Mr Ya’alon will hold meetings with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi and also participate in Aero India 2015 in Bengaluru to inaugurate the Israeli Pavilion at Aero India.
The India-Israel relations have acquired a new momentum under the new government in New Delhi, which looks at Tel Aviv as an important partner in a host of areas, including defence, counter-terrorism, and water conservation. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met in New York in September 2014 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. With a host of terror groups active in the region, India is looking to step up counter-terror cooperation with Israel.

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