Israel maintains diplomatic relations with most Asian states. The growing economic and political strength of these countries has contributed to the intensification of ties in the political, cultural, and, above all, economic spheres. Technical cooperation with Israel in the areas of rural development, agriculture, and education has also played an important role in relations with the developing countries of the region.
Israel and China established diplomatic relations in 1992. Since then, they have developed their relations steadily, culminating in the historic visit of the Chinese president to Israel in 2000 and the visits of three Israeli presidents to Beijing in the last decade. Since the mid-1980s, Israel and Japan have steadily expanded their bilateral relations, reflected in the signing of several agreements and in the reciprocal visits of prime ministers. Japan has also played a significant role in the multilateral peace process.
The relations with India, which started in 1992, have also intensified in all aspects. In 2003, Israel's prime minister made the first-ever visit to New Delhi.
In 2005, for the second year in a row, the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training hosted a group of trainees from Tibet. The Dalai Lama visited Israel and met with the trainees and representatives of the Center.
In the year 2000, Israel established diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka. Israel maintains good relations with many ASEAN member countries. Some of these ties date back 50 years and more, as in the case of Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines. Some ties began more recently, when Israel in 1993 established diplomatic relations with Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In 2005, 150 trainees from Myanmar were enrolled in courses at the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training.
Since the mid-1980s, Israel and Japan have steadily expanded bilateral cooperation, reflected inter alia in the signing of several agreements, reciprocal visits of prime ministers and ministers, and Japan's contribution to the multilateral peace process. In 2002, Israel and Japan celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Israel has had full diplomatic ties with Australia and New Zealand for many years, though relations with the latter were briefly severed over the capture of Mossad agents operating illegally. In the recent past, relations have been established with ten newly independent island states, most of which participate in various programs of Israel's international cooperation.
In 2005, Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers met publicly in Istanbul for the first time. Pakistan's foreign ministry said that a Pakistani delegation will travel to Gaza and Jerusalem in October 2005. Meanwhile, Pakistani Minister Khursheed Kusari revealed that Israel and Pakistan had had secret contact for some ten years before the ties were made public.
In 2006, Taiwan signed its first agreement with Israel for technological cooperation. Ruth Kahanoff, director of the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, which serves as Israel’s de facto embassy in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic relations, signed the agreement in late January with Taiwanese officials from the country’s National Science Council. Earlier in the month, a representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Tel Aviv signed the same document with Israeli officials there. Key areas for cooperation will be nanotechnology and biotechnology.
In April 2014, Israel's Ministry of the Economy announced plans to open trade attache offices in Asia (in addition to Africa and South America) as an effort by Foreign Trade Administration director Ohad Cohen to turn the ministry to emerging markets. The trend of Israel turning to new and growing markets at the expense of its European presence will continue because of the changing Israeli balance of trade.
Agriculture cooperation has been one of the main pillars of relations between Vietnam and Israel since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1993. Israel has sent experts to Vietnam and organized 18 courses on agriculture, attracting 850 trainees. These courses mainly focused on dairy cattle farming, aquaculture, orchards, and agricultural marketing. More than 180 Vietnamese people have been trained in Israel since 1995. Under a new cooperation framework between Israel's Arava International Centre for Agriculture Training (AICAT) and the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's National Agriculture Promotion Centre, about 60 Vietnamese agricultural students took part in 11-month training programs in Israel in 2004-2005. Vietnam and Israel have participated in agricultural exhibitions and fairs organized in each country. Israeli pavilions have been present in a series of exhibitions in Vietnam, such as “AgroViet,” “Green Week,” and the Can Tho international agriculture exhibition. Vietnam has also sent groups to the world's biggest international agriculture exhibition held every three years in Israel.
In July 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres received the credentials of the first Vietnamese ambassador to Israel, H.E. Mr. Dinh Xuan Luu, in Jerusalem. The ambassador will operate from an embassy that will be established in Israel for the first time since the establishment of diplomatic relations. The previous ambassador was a non-resident ambassador operating from Cairo.
As part of a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Vietnam and Israel encouraging cooperation within the dairy products sector, Israel and Vietnam opened the Dairy Demonstration and Experimental Farm in Vietnam's capital Ho Chi Minh City, in 2013. The farm is managed by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Israeli Embassy in Vietnam. Operations at the facility are overseen by Israel's Mashav Agency for International Development Cooperation. The goal of the Dairy Demonstration and Experimental Farm is to find a way to increase the milk production and efficiency of Vietnamese farmers. Ideally, the program would like to see the individual Vietnamese cows produce 8,000 liters of milk per year instead of 3,500 liters of milk per year as they currently are. Cows in Israel produce up to 13,000 liters of milk per year. Poor living conditions, in addition to poor nutrition, metabolic problems, and high temperatures and humidity, contribute to the sickly nature of Vietnamese dairy cows. The Israeli officials running the Dairy Demonstration and Experimental Farm are teaching the Vietnamese farmers how to get the most milk out of their cows, using techniques such as keeping them constantly cool to avoid heat stress and improving their diet with fresher and more nutritious grasses. The facility contains 174 animals, and farmers come to take courses in best practices for farming and taking care of their cows. Staff at the Dairy Demonstration and Experimental Farm also routinely make site visits to the individual farms. The individual farmers are often very poor so they have been slow to adopt the new practices that need newer, specialized equipment.
In November 2015, Vietnamese and Israeli businesses held a conference called “Meet Israel,” in Hanoi, Vietnam, that attracted 130 participants from both countries. Vietnamese Ambassador to Israel Cao Tran Quoc Hai said that Vietnam was interested in Israeli medical equipment and devices, drip irrigation technology, male shrimp breeding techniques, and various other agricultural advances. Two-way trade between Israel and Vietnam increased fivefold from 2009 to 2014, jumping from $200 million to $1.1 billion.
In July 2023, Israel signed a free trade agreement with Vietnam during the visit of Vietnamese Trade and Industry Minister Nguyen Hong Dien and Deputy Premier Tran Luu Quang to Jerusalem. The agreement will remove duties on at least 86% of Vietnamese products and 93% of Israeli products. In 2022, bilateral trade between Israel and Vietnam rose 18% to $2.2 billion. Israel primarily exports electronics and fertilizers to Vietnam and imports smartphones, footwear, and seafood. Vietnam’s Industry and Trade Ministry said the agreement will “facilitate Vietnam’s exports of its products not only to Israel but also pave the way for Vietnamese products to access other Middle East, North African and southern European markets.”
“We’ve had excellent relations over the past few decades, but this is an important turning point,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented. “We are formally signing an agreement that will expand our trade, which is robust, to be even more robust. I look forward to increasing our ties with innovation, with all the areas that can better the lives of both our peoples.” He added, “Vietnam is a vibrant, growing economy. Israel is a vibrant, growing economy. And our cooperation I think creates new horizons that will make us more successful together in the future.”
Vietnam is the second East Asian country with which Israel has a free trade agreement (after the Republic of Korea) and the first from the ASEAN bloc.
In addition to the trade agreement, Netanyahu and Tran marked the 30th year of diplomatic relations between the two countries and discussed opening direct flights and increasing cooperation in agriculture and tourism.
Sources: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Map: CIA Factbook.