David Frum

01.16.12

India Hearts Israel

israel-india
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with visiting Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on January 10, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Yin Dongxun-Pool / Getty Images)

Time continues to run out for the Jewish state. Last week Indian foreign minister S. M. Krishna visited Israel, the first such visit by an Indian foreign minister in a decade.

Krishna’s visit underscores the tightening of Israeli-Indian security connections:

While the tangible deliverables were about agriculture and research and development—Israel now has 27 agriculture projects in over seven Indian states and will sponsor 100 post-doctoral scholarships for Indians -- the discussions were much more substantive. In his public interactions, Krishna unhesitatingly detailed counter-terrorism, security and defence as the big areas of connect with Israel.

Israeli minister for internal security Yitzhak Aharonovitch had visited India recently where the primary discussions were about tackling terrorism.

Interestingly, while Krishna was being presented with a specially signed tennis racquet as an acknowledgment of his sporting love, premier Israeli business media Globes reported that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) was signing its largest-ever defence deal with India, over $1.1 billion worth of missiles, anti-missile systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), intelligence and other systems.

As important, however, may be the warming of the people-to-people ties between Israel and India:

The greatest level of sympathy towards Israel can be found in India, according to international study on behalf of the Foreign Ministry, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.

According to the study, which was unprecedented in scope and was undertaken by an international market research company, 58% of Indian respondents showed sympathy to the Jewish State. The United States came in second, with 56% of American respondents sympathizing with Israel.

The study was undertaken as part of the “Branding Israel” project and aimed at looking into Israel’s international stature at what researchers characterized as the world’s 13 most important countries, including the US, Canada, Britain, France, China, and Russia. A total of 5,215 people took part in the study.

Other countries that showed significant sympathy to Israel included Russia (52%) Mexico (52%) and China (50%). At the bottom of the list, the study ranked Britain (34%) France (27%) and Spain (23%) as the least sympathetic countries towards Israel.

I’ll take those statistics with more than a few grains of salt: I can’t truly believe that the vast majority of the billion-plus people Indians care much about Israel one way or the other. I would expect that the larger part of those who do express positive views about Israel are mostly swayed by the feeling that any country so disliked by Pakistan must be a good thing.

Yet it’s also true that at both the personal level and the strategic level, the interests and values of the world’s largest democracy and the world’s most embattled are converging in ways that are real, growing, and full of significance for the 21st century world.