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India-Israel Relations

Military Cooperation
Ties Deepen
Historic Visit of India’s Prime Minister
Developments Following Modi’s Visit

India and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1992 and since then the bilateral relationship between the two countries has blossomed at the economic, military, agricultural and political levels. Both countries see themselves as isolated democracies threatened by neighbors that train, finance and encourage terrorism, therefore both countries also view their cooperative relationship as a strategic imperative.

Relations between Jerusalem and New Delhi were not always warm. Although both countries gained their independence from the United Kingdom within months of each other, they found themselves headed in pointedly different directions for nearly four decades – India as a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement that maintained close relations to the Arab world and the Soviet Union; Israel which linked its future to close ties with the United States and Western Europe.

India’s large Muslim population was another major obstacle to building a relationship with Israel, as India feared that close relations with the Jewish State might somehow radicalize its Muslim citizens – numbering more than 100 million – and hurt its relations with the Arab world.

Although India publicly kept a distance from Israel until the late 1980s, there was in fact a great deal of bilateral activities between the two countries in the preceding years. India extended de-jure recognition to Israel in 1950 and allowed Israel to maintain a consulate in Mumbai (Bombay) to facilitate the voluntary immigration of thousands of Indian Jews to Israel. Thousands of Indians have also traveled to Israel for special courses and training in agricultural technology and community development. Israeli supplied weapons aided India in winning the Kargil War against Pakistan in 1999. Israel also provided humanitarian relief to India. Following a devastating earthquake in 2001, Israel sent an IDF emergency response delegation to India for two weeks to provide humanitarian relief and treatment for the victims.

Since firmly establishing diplomatic ties, both countries have benefited immensely. India has become one of Israel’s largest trading partners, many of the world’s leading high-tech companies in Israel and India are forging joint ventures that are successfully competing in the tough international marketplace. Trade and cooperation between the countries now centers primarily on security-related deals and aid in areas such as agriculture and water desalination.

The key to the growing India-Israel ties, however, is in the realm of security and defense. In the early 2000s, the Indian army declared its intention to implement a modernization program to which resources of tens of billions of dollars would be allocated. Since then, defense deals with Israel have grown exponentially; today, India is the number one export target of Israel’s defense industries.

To give a sense of the tremendous growth in Israel-India trade, in 1992, total trade amounted to $200 million; the figure was $4.13 billion in 2016. Israel exported $1.15 billion worth of goods to India in 2016, not including diamonds, amounting to 2.5% of Israel’s total exports for the year.

Military Collaboration

Israel has sold radar and surveillance systems as well as electronic components for military aircraft and has helped India defend itself through training in counterterrorism methods. In November 2011, India’s elite Cobra Commando unit bought more than 1,000 units of the Israeli X-95 assault rifle to use in counterinsurgency operations. Also in 2011, India placed orders for four advanced Israeli Phalcon AWACS planes (airborne warning and control systems) which are capable of detecting hostile aircraft, cruise missiles, and other incoming aerial threats far before ground-based radars.

In January 2012, India and Israel stepped up their counter-terrorism coordination strategy in the wake of Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna’s visit to the Jewish state. While in Israel, Krishna met with top Israeli government and defense leaders and agreed to work to boost their counter-terrorism cooperation. The two countries also signed an Extradition Treaty and a pact on the Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners.

During a July 2014 visit to Tel Aviv, Indian Defense Secretary Radha Krishna Mathur outlined his goals for Indo-Israeli defense cooperation. The Indian government requested an unspecified number of Sword Fish ground radar trackers, precision-guided artillery, unspecified missiles, and two AWACS units (in addition to the four ordered in 2005). Mathur was especially interested in the delivery of long-range anti-missile defense batteries for deployment aboard Indian naval ships. The project was announced in 2005, and originally scheduled for delivery in 2012. Israeli and Indian government officials signed an intelligence-sharing agreement in July 2014, hoping to fight radical Islamic extremism in the region together.

Israel Aerospace Industries successfully tested a jointly developed Indian-Israeli Barak 8 air and naval defense missile system on November 10, 2014. The missile test was carried out by Israel’s Defense Ministry and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and represents the first full successful test of the missile. A top advisor to India’s defense minister hailed the test as “an important milestone in the cooperation between India and Israel.”

India-Israel cooperation increased dramatically in 2014 with the election of India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Between Modi’s election in May 2014 and November 2014, Israel exported $662 million worth of Israeli weapons and defense items to India. This export number is greater than the total Israeli exports to India during the previous three years combined. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made the first ever official visit of an Israeli Defense Minister to India in February 2015. While in India, Ya’alon, along with many other top Israeli defense officials, attended the Aero India arms exhibition in Bangalore. The purpose of Ya’alon’s trip was to increase interaction and cooperation between defense industries in Israel and India. Photos surfaced online the following day of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi standing at the Israel Aerospace Industries booth at the exhibition, in a public display of Israel and India’s strategic relationship.

Israel Aerospace Industries successfully tested a jointly developed Indian-Israeli Barak 8 air and naval defense missile system on November 10, 2014. The missile test was carried out by Israel’s Defense Ministry and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and represents the first full successful test of the missile. A top advisor to India’s defense minister hailed the test as “an important milestone in the cooperation between India and Israel.”

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Indian state-owned Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) began collaborating on a jointly developed surface-to-air missile system for the Indian Army in 2015. Indian officials purchased 321 launchers and 8,356 missiles from the Israeli military in 2015. India uses Israel-made unmanned drones for surveillance and military purposes and ordered 16 drones in 2015.

The government of India quietly approved the purchase of 10 armored Heron TP drone vehicles from Israel on September 11, 2015, at a price of $400 million. These drones will help secure India’s borders and will be operated by members of India’s air force. An original proposal for the purchase was presented in 2012, but the program did not receive political backing until 2015.

The Barak 8 long-range surface-to-air missile, developed jointly between India and Israel, was successfully tested on December 30, 2015. The test of the missile system, which cost the Indian government approximately $1.4 billion, was carried out on the Indian warship INS Kolkata. India again successfully tested the Barak 8 on June 30, 2016. An Indian defense official praised the test, stating “the test launch was a grand success and it met all the targets.” The Barak 8 was developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries and can be launched from a ship or from land. Another successful test of the Barak 8 missile was carried out on September 20, 2016, at the Chandipur research and development base in Odisha, on the Bay of Bengal.

Indian firm Reliance Defense and Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems signed a cooperative agreement worth an estimated $10 billion at Defexpo India on March 30, 2016. Per the agreement, Rafael and Reliance will cooperatively produce air-to-air missiles, various missile defense systems, and surveillance balloons for the Indian military. The undertaking is projected to provide employment for 3,000 Indians at a facility in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

The Indian Navy launched a new, Israeli-developed Integrated Under Water Harbor Defense and Surveillance System (IUHDSS), in February 2017. The system will enhance the security of above and below-water vehicles operated by the Indian Navy in the Mumbai Naval Harbor.

In October 2014 India and Israel reached a deal for India to purchase 8,356 Spike anti-tank guided missiles and 321 missile launchers developed by Israeli Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. This contract was deferred prior to its signature, however, due to costs and vendor issues. The Indian Ministry of Defense announced in March 2017 that the contract, worth approximately $1 billion, would finally be moving forward.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced in April 2017 that it had struck a deal with India’s Army and Navy to supply them with an advanced air defense system worth upwards of $2 billion. The deal was described by IAI as Israel’s largest ever defense deal.

On May 10, 2017, three warships from the Indian navy docked in the port of Haifa, ahead of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s scheduled visit during the Summer. The ships, the INS Mumbai, the INS Trisula, and the INS Aditya, participated in a Naval drill with the Israeli navy when they entered the port. This is the eighth time that Indian ships have docked at an Israeli port, the first being in 2000.

The Indian military carried out their first successful tests of the Israeli-made Surface-to-air Python and Derby missile system (SPYDER) on May 11, 2017. The launch of the SPYDER system went off without a hitch, and all three missiles that were launched hit their targets. Python and Derby missiles comprise the SPYDER system, which also features an onboard radar for increased accuracy. The system, which is made for low-altitude missile strikes, has a range of 15km.

A new partnership between Indian security firm Punj Lloyd and Israel Weapons Industries, known as Punj Lloyd Raksha Systems, or PLR, was announced in May 2017. The firm produces small-arms from the Israel Weapons Industries product line and is the first private small-arms manufacturer in India to produce equipment for both local and export use. Ashok Wadhawan, the president of manufacturing at Punj Lloyd, explained that the joint venture aims to supply carbines, assault rifles, sniper rifles and light machine guns for armed forces, paramilitary forces, and state police.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security service recruited 30 dogs from Israel in 2017, trained to attack, sniff for bombs and drugs, and track criminals.

The Indian military deployed an Israeli-developed comprehensive integrated border management system (CIBMS) along its border with Pakistan in August 2017. The fence will be monitored by sensors and security cameras and will alert people in monitoring facilities when a breach has occurred. Indian officials announced plans to seal all of their 6,300km borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh with the Israeli smart-fence.  

India participated in the Israeli Blue Flag military exercise for the first time in November 2017.

Due to rising tensions with China, India announced plans in July 2020 to purchase additional weapons from Israel. Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz discussed strengthening bilateral ties and Singh expressed interest in encouraging greater participation of Israeli defense companies in India’s defense manufacturing sector.


In 2006, Israeli and Indian ministers of agriculture signed a long-term cooperation and training deal, which has since been supervised by field experts from Mashav, an international development program of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. In 2008, the two nations started a $50 million shared agriculture fund, focusing on dairy, farming technology and micro-irrigation. This constituted the Indo-Israel Agricultural Project. In 2011, India and Israel signed an agreement to foster cooperation on urban water systems, which came after more than a decade of joint research, development and shared investment in the countries’ respective water technologies.

In May 2013, Israel announced that it would help India diversify and raise the yield of its fruit and vegetable crops under the Indo-Israel Agricultural Project, by offering the country its advanced technology and know-how. Israel pledged to set up 28 centers of excellence across India focused on specific fruit and vegetable crops. By March 2014, 10 centers of excellence operated throughout India offering free training sessions for farmers in efficient agricultural techniques using Israeli technological expertise. Vertical farming, drip irrigation, and soil solarization are some of what is taught at the centers. Farming at these centers focuses on mangoes, tomatoes, pomegranates, and citrus fruits. In the future, Israeli and Indian farmers hope to expand to flowers, beekeeping, and dairying. Israel and India inaugurated their 23rd joint center of excellence in the Northeast Indian state of Mizoram on March 7, 2018.

Ties Deepen

The head of Israel’s space research program, Colonel Avi Hareven, and the head of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Dr. K. Kasturirangan, signed an agreement on space cooperation between the two countries in November 2002.

In June 2013, a delegation of 16 high-ranking Indian officials of the water authorities of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Goa, and Haryana came to Israel and visited wastewater treatment plants, met with some of Israel’s leading environmentalists and agronomists, and listened to explanations of some of the newest technologies for water management. “In India, we have a major crisis of water,” said Rajeev Jain, an assistant engineer in the water department of Rajasthan. “Our problem is the same that Israel faced. But Israel is an expert at successfully implementing technologies that we aren’t able to implement. So we have come here to understand which technologies they use and how they manage these things.”

In a historic moment, the first meeting of the Prime Ministers from Israel and India in over a decade occurred on September 28, 2014. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two spoke of economic, technological, and agricultural collaboration in the future. Netanyahu expressed his concerns about a nuclear Iran and the spread of radical Islam throughout the Middle East, and the two enjoyed a friendly conversation. The Indian Prime Minister acknowledged that Israel and India have a historic working relationship and stated that India is “the only country where antisemitism has never been allowed to come up, where Jews have never suffered and lived as an integral part of our society.” The meeting was left on a positive note, with Netanyahu inviting Modi to Israel for a return visit.

India-Israel cooperation increased dramatically with the election of India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, and the two countries continued their positive relationship into 2015. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made the first ever official visit of an Israeli Defense Minister to India in February 2015. While in India, Ya’alon, along with many other top Israeli defense officials, attended the Aero India arms exhibition in Bangalore. The purpose of Ya’alon’s trip was to increase interaction and cooperation between defense industries in Israel and India. Photos surfaced online the following day of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi standing at the Israel Aerospace Industries booth at the exhibition, in a public display of Israel and India’s strategic relationship.

In what was hailed as a “huge development for India” by local news agencies, India abstained from a vote at the UNHRC that approved their Gaza Commission of Inquiry report in July 2015. Forty-one countries voted in favor of adopting the findings of the biased report, and India was one of only five others who abstained. This marked the first time that India had ever voted against Palestinian interests at the UNHRC, signaling a potentially significant shift in India-Israel relations.

India’s ambassador to Israel, Jaideep Sarkar, encouraged the approximately 85,000 Israeli Jews of Indian descent to tour their country of origin in August 2015, amid warming ties between the nations. Sarkar stated, “We want to tell the world proudly about the rich Jewish life in India with your efforts we are working to preserve the Jewish heritage in India. We hope to have a package tour to Jewish heritage sites in Mumbai and elsewhere by early next year.” He also suggested that these Indian-Israeli Jews consider enrolling in higher education courses at Indian universities.

During a 3-day visit to Israel in January 2016, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj stated that the full development of positive Israel-India ties is of “the highest importance,” to the government in India.

In the first visit of its kind in 20 years, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited India for a week in mid-November 2016. Rivlin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions and meetings pertaining to security cooperation and combatting terrorism, and also discussed the future of Israeli investment in India. While in India, the Israeli President also visited the Taj Mahal and observed Indian water treatment facilities. Indian officials signed contracts worth a combined $1.4 billion with Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) during Rivlin’s visit, on November 16, 2016. The two defense contracts provide for the Indian purchase from Israel of two Phalcon/IL-76 Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), valued at $1 billion, as well as 10 additional Heron TP UAV drones, valued at $400 million.

Historic Visit of India’s Prime Minister

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first sitting Indian prime minister to visit Israel on July 4, 2017. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared with Modi throughout his three-day visit, accompanying him on visits to Yad Vashem and water desalination plants as well as various cultural events. Officials at the Israeli Foreign Ministry emphasized that Netanyahu’s level of participation in the visit was not at all standard, and underscored the crucial importance of the trip. During Modi’s trip he did not meet with any Palestinian officials, although he met with Mahmoud Abbas in India two months prior.

The week before Modi’s historic visit to Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet agreed to measures to increase Israel’s non-diamond exports to India by 25%, and established a new $40 million joint innovation, research, and development fund. The government also approved incentives to film Bollywood movies in Israel and plans to increase the number of Indian firms doing business in Israel.

Multiple collaborative agreements were signed between Indian and Israeli entities during Modi’s visit. The Israel Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organization signed an agreement to foster partnership in the development of electric propulsion systems for small satellites, and creating systems to accurately measure the extreme conditions of outer space.

Israeli officials and their Indian counterparts signed an agreement to create the India Israel Innovation Initiative fund (I4F) on July 5, 2017, modeled after the US-Israel BIRD foundation. The two countries pledged $4 million per year each to I4F over a five-year period. Representatives from a number of India’s largest corporations signed eight trade agreements with Israeli firms including Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries. A collaborative agreement was also signed during Modi’s visit to Israel between the Asher Space Research Institute at the Technion and the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology. This agreement aims to establish joint study and research exchange programs.

Concluding his visit, Modi bid farewell to the people of Israel via a Twitter post in Hebrew and English that read I thank the people and Government of Israel for their hospitality. This successful visit will add more energy to India-Israel relations. Israeli prime Minister Netanyahu posted a message on Twitter in Modi’s native language of Hindi as well. Netanyahu made a reciprocal visit to India, the first by an Israeli prime minister in more than 15 years, on January 14, 2018. 

Developments Following Modi’s Visit

The Israeli National Emergency Medical Service, MDA-Magen David Adom (Hebrew for Red Star of David) and the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), held a joint training program during July 2017 aimed at improving and upgrading the IRCS first-responder skills. Trainers from the MDA worked with IRCS volunteers, teaching them to provid[e] first aid during emergencies, natural disasters and accidents and... teach life-saving skills that will save precious lives, said the director of the IRCS blood bank. IRCS trainees were taught the laws of first-aid and how to handle patients, in addition to how to bandage wounds, stop the flow of blood from an injury, and perform CPR on adults and children.

An estimated 70,000 Hindus in the Indian city of Kolkata marched in support of Israel on February 14, 2018. The rally was organized by the Indian organization Hindu Samhati, which promotes close India-Israel relations and provides services to poor Indians. Hindu Samhati organized a similar, 20,000-strong rally in support of Israel during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) signed an agreement with India’s KSU in July 2018, to operate Israeli Taxibot semi-robotic vehicles at India’s New Delhi and Mumbai airports. Taxibot connects to planes to taxi the airplane from the airport’s jet bridge without using the airplane’s main engines. This saves a significant amount of fuel, as well as slashes noise levels and carbon emissions.

In 2017, a record 70,000 tourists from India visited Israel. This trend continued into 2018, with 40,000 Indian tourists visiting Israel during just the first six months of the year. Air India began running faster (approximately 7 hours) direct flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv four times per week in March 2018, so tourism numbers are expected to continue to climb.

The first recipients of grants from the Israel-India Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F) were announced in July 2018, including companies working to better the lives of Indians and Israelis through efficient water use, improving communications infrastructure, solar energy use, and life-changing surgeries. The fund aims to help Israeli entrepreneurs enter the Indian market.

Ben-Gurion University has established a joint agricultural research institute in Chennai, India, in partnership with Aban Offshore, an international Indian company in the offshore drilling and wind energy markets. Indian students will be able to earn a degree from Ben-Gurion in dryland agriculture and biotechnology, hydrology and water quality, desert studies, or ecology and conservation.

As India faced the world’s most severe surge of COVID-19 infections in late April 2021, the Israeli nonprofit IsraAID announced it was sending a large shipment of medical aid to the country. “The scale of the crisis currently unfolding in India is simply overwhelming,” said Yotam Polizer, CEO of IsraAID. “As a humanitarian organization that has responded to COVID-19 in 17 countries up to now, we felt we could not just stand by.”

Another Israeli aid group, SmartAID also sent medical supplies. “SmartAID jumped into action as soon as we heard of the unfolding crisis in India,” said Alethea Gold, SmartAID Global Goodwill Ambassador. “We have been working tirelessly with our local partners in New Delhi to put together this support package which is aimed at reducing the escalating number of deaths.”

During a visit to Israel in October 2021, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said India considers Israel “in many ways as perhaps our most trusted and innovative partner.” Ron Malka, the Economy Ministry director-general and a former ambassador to India, said that Israel’s ties with India are “the biggest achievement we have done with any country in international affairs.”

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) tested the jointly-developed MRSAM Air and Missile Defense System in April 2022. Two interceptors were launched from a portable land-based system and two others from a naval-based system, operated from Indian Navy ships, which successfully intercepted their targets.

“This successful trial is another example of the strong connection and quality of the technological partnership between IAI and India. The trial proved, once again, IAI’s advanced capabilities in air defense, which are leading the global industry,” Boaz Levy, IAI President and CEO told IsraelDefense.

During the visit of President Joe Biden to Israel in July 2022, the first leaders’ summit among Israel, India, the United States, and the UAE was held virtually. This I2U2 group agreed to deepen the economic ties between the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific, to create new partnerships to tackle global challenges, like food insecurity and clean energy technology. The summit was seen as adding momentum for a trade agreement with Israel and strengthening economic ties between India and the UAE where 3.5 million Indians, about a third of the Gulf nation’s total population, are employed.

In October 2022, India’s Centum Electronics Ltd. and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd. signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly develop an electronic warfare system for the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard. 

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