Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Wife Sarah at Taj Mahal
Bibi & Sara Netanyahu in India
Photo: Israel GPO Photo: Avi Ohayon The first family of Israel wearing Valentine red at India’s love monument, the Taj Mahal.
Israel and India are courting one another this week during the historic visit to India of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah. The two countries have an extensive economic, military, and strategic relationship.
India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the second-largest defence supplier to India after Russia. From 1999 to 2009, the military business between the two nations was worth around $9 billion. Military and strategic ties between the two nations extend to intelligence sharing on terrorist groups and joint military training.
As of 2014, India is the third-largest Asian trade partner of Israel, and tenth-largest trade partner overall. In 2014, bilateral trade, excluding military sales, stood at US$4.52 billion. Relations further expanded during Prime MinisterNarendra Modi‘s administration, with India abstaining from voting against Israel in the United Nations in several resolutions. As of 2015, the two nations are negotiating an extensive bilateral free trade agreement, focusing on areas such as information technology, biotechnology, and agriculture.
Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s addresses in India:
Prime Minister Modi, my dear friend, Israel’s dear friend, thank you on behalf of the people of Israel for the exceptional welcome that you’re giving us and the opportunity to address this forum with the distinguished guests that are here from so many nations, from India and from Israel. Thank you for this unbelievably moving visit and thank you for the opportunity also to address the challenges that face the future and how together we can work to achieve prosperity, security and peace.
I want to tell you first how we in Israel overcame our challenge. We’re in a tiny people, live in a small country, somewhat smaller than India, a lot smaller than India, no natural resources, no great rivers. Well, the Jordan is a great river, but it’s a stream, it trickles. And yet we’ve become I think a force to contend with on the world scene, and I would like to describe to you the process that we went through and then discuss what we could do together.
I was thinking about the journey that we made yesterday in that magnificent ceremony in the President’s house and I was thinking that 75 years ago our people were like a wind-tossed leaf. A third of our people were destroyed in heaps of ashes, and yet there I was standing representing the Jewish people in the great nation of India, one of the great powers on earth. What led to this transformation?
It was our understanding of the principal lesson of Jewish history and also a simple lesson in our turbulent region, and it is this: the weak don’t survive. The strong survive. You make peace with the strong. You make alliances with the strong. You’re able to maintain peace by being strong, and therefore the first requirement of Israel from the time of our first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was to achieve the minimal strength that is required to assure our existence. Now, what is the source of strength? Various questions arise about what is the nature of power? There’s soft power. There’s hard power. I like soft power. Hard power is often better. What does it mean? What does it mean to have power? Well, the first prerequisite s military power. You need F35s, you need submarines, you need interceptors, you need cyber, you need intelligence. In the case of Israel you need a lot of intelligence to compensate for our size. There’s one thing that characterizes all the things that I just mentioned. They cost money, a lot of money, and as time goes by, they cost more and more money. So defense – the prerequisite of security, and security always comes first – defense costs a great deal of money, as does education, as does health, as does infrastructure, all the requirements that our people justly deserve once we provide security.
Where does the money come from? It comes from the second source of power. That is, economic power. I view the requirements of providing, of security our future as dependent on three sources of power – military power; now economic power. How do you get economic power? Surely you need education. Prime Minister Modi and I were talking about how we educate our youth. In the case of Israel, there’s one big education machine. It’s called the Israeli Defense Force, and everyone comes in and we give training, we give technology, we give an assessment, an understanding of the main techniques of technology that are important for the future, also for civilian future.
And yet, we have seen other societies that have had educated people, highly educated people, extraordinary mathematicians, physicists, metallurgists, that didn’t achieve economic power. In fact, they collapsed. I’m talking about the Former Soviet Union. But if you took, in Soviet times, if you took one of those mathematicians and speared him away, or her, to California, to Silicon Valley, the would be producing value within two weeks, because the requirement, the necessary requirement for the development of technology, innovation, ingenuity, the necessary requirement are free markets or freer markets. Technology and value added is produced by firms. Firms produce technology. They perfect it, they multiply it, the re-invent. Firms are critical, and therefore the technology, the policy that produces growth and gives you competitive advantage is the economic policy that makes it possible for firms to do business. It’s called being business-friendly.
I have to say that I was absolutely astounded when I learned yesterday that Prime Minister Modi has moved India on the scale of the ease of doing business 42 places in three years. Prime Minister Modi understands exactly what I’m talking about. In other words, if you want to have economic power, you must reduce taxes, simplify taxes, and you must cut bureaucracy. Government can facilitate economic growth. Government can block economic growth. In our cases, Israel and India, we don’t have any bureaucracy to contend with. You know that. So a main job of the leaders of both India and Israel is to reduce this bureaucracy, to cut it, as I call it, with a machete, with an axe, so that the firms can go on with their business of doing business. This gives strength. We’ve done this in Israel. We’ve transformed an economy that was very centralized and very bureaucratized into a free market economy that allows the technological genius of our people and our young people to flower.
This is what starts the startups. Startups are made by young people, thousands of them. The minute we created this climate, this climate of creativity and entrepreneurship, the talents break forth. I believe that this second power is critical to the first. I believe that the growth of military power and military influence is dependent ultimately on economic power, and economic power facilitates also all the elements of life that we need.
We have achieved that transition to a more liberal economy and we are absolutely committed to continuing on this path because we know we are in a never-ending race. The exponential growth that you talked about is achieved today by the confluence of Big Data, connectivity and artificial intelligence. The countries that will seize the future are those that will innovate along these lines. The future belongs to those who innovate. Those who innovate will innovate in freer market terms. And this is what we all must do. We’re doing it. India is doing it.
Now, having established our military power and our economic power, we are now developing our third power, and the third power is political power. By political power I mean the ability to make political alliances and relationships with many other countries. in the last year alone I visited six continents – obviously Asia, Africa, Europe, Africa I visited three times in 18 months, South America and of course North America and Australia, so all six. And we have a growing number of countries with whom we have trade relations, cultural relations, technological relations, security relations. This is very important for us in order to broaden our position in the world, in order to have the kind of relations that ultimately secure your future. Military power. Economic power. Political power.
But there is I believe a fourth power, and the fourth power is the power of our values, of our traditions. I was asked by African leaders, I was asked in a symposium in the UN about Israeli technologies that are helping change Africa, I was asked: What is the secret of Israel? You know, we create a lot of problems in Africa, he said, and you come and you create solutions with us. What is your secret? You’re such a small country. How do you do this? And I said: Look, we are a special people. We are like a tree that has deep roots in our ancient soil, our ancient tradition, and yet we throw up leaves to the heavens. We keep searching, keep inquiring, keep looking for new ways. The branches go up to the sky and the roots are deep in the earth. I believe that this is the secret of Israel. I also believe it’s the secret of India. It’s exactly the same thing – powerful traditions, ancient cultures of which we are so deeply proud, and yet these inquiring minds that reach out to the sky, reach out for new solutions to the problems all the time, and I think this characterizes our two peoples.
But I believe too that there’s one thing else that binds us together and I think perhaps it is the most important of all. We have a special relationship. Among the many countries, we have a special relationship to democracies. India is the world’s most populous democracy. It is a place that shows that humanity can be governed with freedom, that we can secure the rights of people, those things that make life worthwhile – the ability to think as we want, speak as we want, believe what we want in a society that is pluralistic, diverse and free. This is what India is about. This is what Israel is about.
So the fourth thing that binds us together is our values, and the most important value is the value of democracy. Well, I believe that this is not merely a passing thing. We’re now moving from a unipolar road to a multipolar road. We have an exceptional relationship with a democracy called the United States of America. We have exceptional relationship with a democracy called Canada and other countries. the reason I mention the importance of democracies is because even though we have relations with most countries in the world, if we are to live in a world that protects international norms – something that you, Prime Minister Modi, talk about all the time – then we must have of course the ability to protect those norms, and democracies bind to each other, connect to each other in natural ways. We are, I think, naturally sympathetic to India. When I walk in the streets of India, as I just did in Agra, I saw the sympathy and friendship of people. Somebody said to me: We are so happy that you are friends with our Prime Minister and that he’s friends with you. We are friends with you! We are friends with Israel. It’s a natural friendship and natural partnership of democratic and free peoples.
Our way of life is being challenged. Most notably, the quest for modernity, the quest for innovation is being challenged by radical Islam and its terrorist offshoots from a variety of corners, and this can upset the international system. I think that one of the ways to overcome such a challenge is to strengthen the relationship between our two great democracies. The alliance of democracies I think is important to secure our common future. I believe that the possibilities are endless. We have discussed in this visit how we can strengthen our two nations in the civilian areas, in the security areas, in every area. It is something l look forward to do.
I want to thank you again for giving me this opportunity to bring India to Israel and Israel to India. Your historic visit broke ground. You are the first leader of India to come to Israel in 3’000 years. Let us hope it will not take long for your next visit. I know that. But I want to tell you how delighted we are in Israel. I want to tell you that we believe in India, as you believe in Israel. Good luck to India. Good luck to Israel, and may God bless the Indian-Israel alliance.”