Israel, India Look Past Defense to Broaden Commercial Ties



In the months leading up to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic visit to Israel, India signed two arms deals, spending $2.6 billion on Israeli missile defense systems.
Yet since Modi arrived on Tuesday, military ties -- for decades the secretive bedrock of India-Israel relations -- have taken a back seat. The governments have instead spent time discussing companies that sell medical devices, hi-tech and water systems.
Rather than making the visit, the first by a sitting Indian prime minister, all about the value of deals signed, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Modi appear intent on playing up shared culture and values, in the hope this will give commercial ties deeper roots.
Under Arab pressure, India kept its distance from Israel for decades but is now seeing advantages in a complementary relationship with Israel. There is interest on both sides in building a broad economic base, rather than merely a contractual exchange based around defense.
The timing reflects a diplomatic shift toward Israel being more accepted in the region. Modi, who is acutely conscious of the need to adopt innovation and new technology to update India's infrastructure has always had a personal affinity for Israel and came to learn more about the country before he became premier.