Ted Deutch, the CEO of the American Jewish Committee in a conversation with The Sunday Guardian about flourishing ties between India, Israel and the US.
According to Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, relations among India, Israel and the US are flourishing. Excerpts from an interview:
Q: How has been your experience this time around in india?
A: It has been a very productive trip for us. AJC works hard to advance the relationship between the United States, Israel and India. The opportunity for us to focus on all the things… it’s gone very well, the reception has been outstanding.
Q: When you met the external affairs minister S Jaishankar, he spoke about how the relationship between India, Israel and the United States has undergone a sea change, particularly since 2014. How do you envisage this trilateral relationship in the coming years?
A: The minister was clear that the relationships among all three nations are strong. The United States is and continues to be a strong partner. Israel is of growing importance. There is a clear understanding about the role Israel plays not just in the region but in the world, and why the benefits of countries coming together is so important. It is a sea change and a very positive one at that.
Q: From the Abraham Accords to the I2U2 grouping, the strategic and trade horizons for Israel in the Middle East have widened. How can India and Israel work together with the Middle East?
A: India and Israel can work together to make use of tremendous opportunities that the Abraham Accords offer, whether it’s the innovation that comes through these relationships or the opportunity to develop closer ties. It’s to focus on the kinds of things that would benefit all of the countries. It’s why I’ll be visiting one of the centres of excellence for agriculture that Israel has set up in india. It’s the opportunity again to benefit from the vision and investment, and far beyond that the people-to-people benefits as well. It’s clearly an important part of policy here in India and other countries.
Q: Speaking of India-Israel bilateral ties, is there a potential of signing a free trade agreement soon?
A: I know that those efforts have been ongoing for some time, and we’ve had some conversations with officials from all over the country. Obviously we’re interested in seeing the ties deepen. It’s in the best interest of all countries and what’s necessary to see those advance, that’s what is being played out right now.
Q: What’s the future of India-Israel defence relationship in wake of India’s goal to become self-reliant?
A: Defence is an important part of the relationship. There is a realisation that Israel can provide cutting-edge technology if necessary and that it is a reliable partner and that relationship is one that benefits both countries.
Q: How are the Indo-Israel Centers of Excellence helping in improving agricultural yeild in India? How can governments and businesses of both the countries benefit from this initiative?
A: It’s most important that the benefits are accrued by people. That’s going to start as businesses interact with each other. The innovation that comes out of these countries, especially on being able to capitalise on the workforce and investment opportunities in the technology area in particular where it is clear that India, Israel and the United States are leaders in the world. It’s only natural that we will find ways to work together. As businesses interact, invest more and create more jobs, that’s where it will benefit the people and the governments as well.
Q: Israel continues to be surrounded by hostile neighbours and the Palestine problem is growing out of hand. Do you think India and Israel can work together to find a long-lasting solution to attain peace in the region?
A: AJC works to advance peace in the world, overall. That means standing with Israel in times of crisis when there are terror attacks. What we saw in Aleppo is just a case of Israel taking action it deeMegha Sharma necessary to keep its border with Syria safe. You have Iran just across the border in Syria, so Israel is taking action to protect itself just as India or other countries would. We want to be supportive of Israel’s ability to protect itself and the people of Israel.
Q: How do you react to the large-scale protests that have been gathering pace in wake of the judicial reforms that have been brought by Prime Minister Netanyahu?
A: It’s a really great question to be asked in India, the biggest democracy in the world. Looking at hundreds of thousands of people on the streets is the surest sign that Israeli democracy is alive and well. People feel very strongly about the issue of judicial reform as it plays out. Our position at AJC is that the process should be thoughtful and deliberative and needs to respect civil liberties. There have been some positive signs. Israel is a democracy that’s working its way through this issue and I think that it’s important for us to be clear about what we expect but respect the fact that Israel is a democracy.
Q: The Jewish community continues to face the maximum percentage of religious hate crimes in America. What is AJC doing to tackle this situation?
A: Jews represent about 2% of the US population but are the victims of nearly 60% of religious hate crimes. This is something that we’ve been focused on. We’re doing everything we can to try and confront rising anti-semitism. It means working with others in the community, finding the right allies to work with and standing up against anti-semitism and hatred. There can be no acceptance of this kind of hatred. It’s important to remember that when there’s anti-semitism it never stops with the Jewish community. The entire society is also at risk if we allow it to fester. We try to provide training and efficacy around this issue so people can better understand what it’s meant to the Jewish community for thousands of years in facing anti-semitism. It’s important to know that we’re sitting here in Delhi. There’s been a Jewish community in India for 2,000 years that’s never faced persecution. That’s an important thing for us to remember as AJC leadership and especially when we go back to the US and talk about this trip.