Israel takes India’s vote in its stride

Benjamin Netanyahu  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India in a fortnight will focus on taking cooperation on “the double-T’s” of technology, including on agriculture and water conservation, and (counter-) terrorism to the “next level”, according to officials familiar with the planning of the visit.

They also indicated that Israel’s unhappiness with India’s vote at the United Nations last week had been put behind both countries in a “diplomatic” manner.

Mr. Netanyahu’s visit comes close on the heels of India’s decision to vote for a resolution that criticised the United States for its shift on the status of Jerusalem, and urged Israel to keep its commitments on talks for the two-state solution.

Officials did not deny that the Israeli government had lodged a protest with India about its vote, but indicated that India’s stand had to be seen in the larger context of its growing alignment with Israel on other issues, and in particular Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in July 2017 as the first Indian PM there. As a result, Israel had used “the right diplomatic channels” to express its sentiments, the sources added.

Traditional position

India’s vote at the UN had been seen as move by the Modi government to affirm its traditional position on the Israel-Palestine peace process, as well as to strike a balance in ties between the two countries, especially ahead of an expected visit by Prime Minister Modi to Palestine in 2018.

While refusing to comment on whether Mr. Modi had spoken directly with Mr. Netanyahu about the vote, the sources said countries must be guided by their interests, and decide where India’s future would lie —“in Ramallah or Jerusalem?” The Israeli government has also appreciated Bhutan for its decision to abstain from the vote, a departure from its normal stance that coordinates with India’s position.

Four-city tour

Mr. Netanyahu, who is expected to be in India for a four-day four-city tour that will take him to Agra, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, apart from his official meetings in Delhi which he will begin his visit with. On January 16, Mr. Netanyahu will deliver the keynote address at the External Affairs Ministry’s annual think-tank event, the “Raisina Dialogue.” Mr. Netanyahu, who will be accompanied by his wife, Sara Netanyahu, will also visit the Taj Mahal in Agra.

In Mumbai, Mr. Netanyahu, whose delegation will include a big business team of about 75-100 companies, will engage with industrialists as well as the film industry.

Last week, a visit to Israel by a delegation from ‘Bollywood’ explored the possibility of a joint film production. The team included director Imtiaz Ali, and senior film producers, officials said.

An evocative ceremony is also expected at Mumbai’s Chabad House, one of the sites of the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack, and where Moshe, an infant whose parents were killed and his nanny who saved him will fly in from Israel to join Mr. Netanyahu.

Mr. Modi is also expected to accompany Mr. Netanyahu during much of the visit which will have its last stop in Gujarat.