The transformation in the relationship between India and Israel, from one that was at best cool and correct to one that is now hailed as a strategic alignment is among the striking changes in the post-Cold War landscape. This shift has been widely praised, particularly by Israeli, Indian and American commentators. They believe that its potential significance extends well beyond the dense network of transactions that has developed between the two sides, and out across the entire region of South Asia and the Greater Middle East.
But the emerging relationship between the two countries has been followed by so much anticipation and excitement as to border on irrational exuberance. While it is true that India and Israel have indeed begun a new chapter in their history, it may not have the far-reaching consequences that many expect. Regardless, it is critical to come to a realistic understanding of the vital interests that will pull the two countries together--and those that will push them apart.
As recently as a decade ago, there was little optimism about an Indo-Israeli duet. Despite the commonplace proposition that democracies do not fight other democracies, it scarcely follows that democracies are also invariably well disposed toward each other. They are often not, and for several decades Exhibit A was the frosty relationship between two democracies born but a year apart, India and Israel.