Israel PM speaks of hard power, praises India on ease of doing biz

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making all the right noises during his India visit. After praising prime minister Narendra Modi lavishly, he said India’s huge jump in the ease of business ratings was astonishing.

Returning from his visit to Agra with his wife Sara, the Israeli PM attended the inaugural session of the Raisina Dialogue where he said that the “strong survive, the weak don’t survive … you make peace and alliances with the strong”.

As he spoke, sitting in the audience was prime minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. Netanyahu stressed on expanding ties with India. “I like soft power, but hard power is usually better. You need F-35s, you need cyber, you need a lot of intelligence….especially for a country like Israel,” he said laying stress on increasing economic, military and political cooperation. He said defending the nation will require strong armed forces which require huge money that comes from having a strong economy.

Netanyahu lauded the Modi government for improving India’s ranking on the ease of doing business and added that the main job was to cut the bureaucracy.

Power of innovation

The Israeli leader said that military power and the economic growth are linked and the future belongs to those who innovate. He said that Israel had transformed its centralised economy into a free market economy and created a climate of entrepreneurship which created space for talent. “The countries that will seize the future will be those who innovate,” he said.

He said India and Israel were partners. “Democracies bind and connect to each other in natural ways. I saw sympathy and friendship of people. When I walked in streets of India, just like in Agra, some said to me, we are so happy that you are friends with our PM, we are friends with you and Israel,” he said adding that the alliance of democracies is important to secure a common future. “I believe possibilities are endless, in this visit, we have discussed how we can strengthen our two nations in civilian, security and in every area.”

The stillness surrounding India’s ties with Israel has been replaced by loudness as Narendra Modi has made sure that the world takes note of New Delhi’s growing friendship with Tel Aviv. India rolled out the red carpet for the Israeli Prime Minister whose ongoing visit – the first in 15 years – is as rare an event as Modi’s visit to Tel Aviv in July last year, the first by an Indian prime minister.

A careful effort went into the projection of the visit as strengthening ties with Israel is in sync with the BJP’s line of thinking that sees Tel Aviv as a natural partner unlike the Congress that was happy in sweeping the affiliation under the carpet to appease the domestic Muslim constituency.

Netanyahu’s itinerary for his nearly week-long stay, will include trips to Ahmedabad and Mumbai, and his high-voltage visit reflects the fact that the two sides are keen to shift gears in their ties established 25 years ago by the Narasimha Rao government.


 Delicate balance

Prime minister Modi has taken the relationship to a new level as he has managed to maintain a delicate balance of strengthening ties with Israel and also shaking hands with West Asian powers like Saudi Arabia and Iran. It even voted against Israel at the UN on the Jerusalem issue, and Netanyahu made it clear that the issue will not come in the way of the ties between the two countries. India had voted against Israel joining 127 countries in favour of a resolution opposing the decision by the US to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

After his talks with Netanyahu, Modi said that the existing pillars of cooperation will be strengthened as agriculture, science and technology and security were identified as the key areas of cooperation.

Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009 has shaped the country’s foreign policy in which India occupies one of the prominent positions. He is inclined to go forward by selling the Israeli technology to the world. India is already one of the biggest beneficiaries. While the world knows about military hardware supply by Israel to India, the cooperation in the field of agriculture is equally deeply entrenched. Israel has set up centres of excellence in agriculture across India which are providing technological help at low cost to Indian farmers. The experiment is slowly gaining momentum as many states are benefiting from the move.

Gautam Gupta