Israel, India have a good relationship

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Israel and India have shared common security interests in recent years, and India has become a leading buyer of Israeli arms and weapons technologies. Security teams from both nations happened to be meeting in New Delhi on Sept. 11, 2001; they turned on the TV and watched the attacks in the United States, sharing assessments together.

It’s a natural fit between the world’s most populous democracy and one of its smallest, said Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international affairs.

“There’s been close cooperation and consultation between India and Israel on counterterrorism and security,” Isaacson said Nov. 28 after spending 36 hours in nearly nonstop consultations with AJC’s representative in India, Priya Tandon, as well as with senior Indian, Israel and U.S. government officials. “This is a further reminder that all democracies face the threat of Islamic extremism.”

India, a vast multicultural society, has welcomed Jews for centuries, perhaps as far back as the destruction of the Second Temple. Many believe that India’s first Jews were shipwrecked refugees from the Roman expulsion in 70 C.E.

“There is no fertile ground for anti-Semitism” in India, Isaacson said. “It’s a multiethnic society where Jews have always been comfortable and welcomed.”

Relations were cool during the Cold War, when India’s then-ruling Congress Party assiduously pursued non-aligned status. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, India expanded ties with Israel, upgrading its Tel Aviv consulate to an embassy and developing robust relations with the Jewish state.

A key element to the relationship has been close ties with U.S. Jewish organizations, particularly in the pursuit of a closer relationship with the U.S. defense establishment. For Washington-area Jewish officials, a must-attend event in recent years has been the Indian Embassy’s Chanukah party.

Tragedy in Mumbai

Ron Kampeas

Ron Kampeas is the D.C. bureau chief at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.