Two ancient civilizations, two post-colonial states, two democracies, two centers of culture and faith, two nations with vibrant global diasporas: It was only natural that India and Israel would forge not only diplomatic relations, but a unique and enduring partnership.
Now, 25 years after Delhi and Jerusalem launched formal ties, we can see the impressive contours of the evolving Indo-Israeli alliance and project even greater mutual benefit in the years to come.
At the local level, this natural bilateral collaboration has intensified in the last few months, partly to the friendship between the countries’ dynamic diplomats covering the Southeast U.S.: Israeli Consul General Judith Varnai Shorer and her Indian counterpart, Nagesh Singh.
In December, Mr. Singh graciously hosted a Hanukkah celebration at the magnificent Indian consulate general building in Sandy Springs. In February, he joined a panel with Conexx – American-Israel Business Connector President Guy Tessler on how both India and Israel are driving forward the South’s technology renaissance through investment and innovation.
Next week will bring another important milestone in the India-Israel relationship here in Atlanta.
On April 24, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), both consulates and the Asian American Heritage Foundation will partner to launch the first India-Israel U.S. Forum, an exploration of the countries’ investment and trade links with the Southeast U.S.
All these fruits are the result of a generation of labor by leaders of both nations to bring them closer together. It took decades for India and Israel to graduate from informal and consular ties, begun shortly after both countries achieved independence, to an exchange of ambassadors and an acknowledgement that open collaboration would be beneficial.
But after that line was crossed by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao on Jan. 29, 1992, Indians and Israelis made up for the lost time. In July, we will witness the first visit of an Indian Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, to Israel.
Over a quarter-century, through governments of the right and left in both countries, the relationship has grown. Today, with an embassy in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai and Bengaluru, Israel has demonstrated its commitment to exploring varied avenues for deepening ties.
Israel operates an expansive network of agricultural technology “centers of excellence” engaged in training programs for farmers across India. And Israeli firms are announcing investments, joint ventures and contracts with stunning regularity.
On his visit to India last November, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin expressed the hopes and intentions harbored by so many of his countrymen, alluding to Mr. Modi’s plan to upgrade India’s manufacturing base.
“India is a top trade partner for Israel. We have come here today to send a strong message: We are here to make in India, to make with India. We are here to grow our economies together in full partnership for the benefit of all of us.”
Since 1992, trade has increased more than 20-fold to close to $6 billion, coupled with combined tourism growing to some 90,000 visitors a year and vast increases in academic, scientific and cultural exchanges.
Indians and Jews are natural friends and allies. One sees this in the United States, where AJC has developed the closest possible links with leaders of the Indian-American community, establishing political, fraternal and business connections, and advocating together for strengthened U.S.-India strategic cooperation (including the landmark Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2008), and standing together against U.S. military assistance to terrorist-supporting states.
For more than 30 years, AJC has brought helped to bring together leaders from Atlanta’s Jewish and Indian communities. Sometimes formally through an Indo-Jewish Dialogue or visits to Israel on AJC’s Project Interchange, and sometimes informally through personal relationships in politics, business and professional organizations.
With collaboration like what we’re witnessing locally, we can only expect that Indo-Israel, Indo-Jewish ties will become stronger and more important.
Learn more about the April 24 forum here.
Dov Wilker is the regional director for the American Jewish Committee in Atlanta.