Israel's exports to India grew by 9 percent even as the Jewish state's overall exports are expected to grow to a record $114 billion in 2019 from $109 billion last year, government data showed on Sunday. According to the Central Bureau and Statistics and Economy Ministry, Israeli goods and services exports stood at $84 billion over the first nine months of the year, up 4.6 percent from January-September 2018.
The Economy Ministry said the increase this year stems mostly from a nearly 12 percent rise in services exports, with growth led by the high tech sector such as software, computing and research and development services.
The gain in services has more than offset weakness in goods exports, which have been hurt this year by slowing global trade, a weak diamond market, and a strong shekel currency. Exports comprise around 30 percent of Israel's economic activity.
Overall, exports to the European Union — Israel's largest trading partner — rose 4.8 percent this year, led by the UK, Spain, Poland and Belgium. Exports to the United States — the largest export market by country — rose 2 percent while exports to India grew 9 percent.
With the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1992, bilateral trade between Israel and India has also increased, from $200 million in 1992-93 to $5.84 billion in 2018, according to an Atlantic Council report. India continues to be Israel’s most important arms market with sales worth an average of $1 billion each year, it added.
Exports to Asian markets including China and Japan fell this year.
Growth in trade amid rising woes for Netanyahu
The latest data comes amid increasing woes for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as pressure mounted on the veteran leader to step aside after his indictment on corruption charges.
Israeli media reported the Likud will hold a leadership vote with primary to be held in six weeks.
Gideon Saar, a Likud lawmaker who has challenged Netanyahu, wrote on Twitter that he "welcomes the prime minister's agreement to hold primaries for party leadership."
Netanyahu's indictment last Thursday came amid political disarray in Israel, after neither Netanyahu nor his main challenger in the general election, centrist Benny Gantz, secured a majority in parliament in April and September votes.
Netanyahu has denied the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust and said he would stay in office and defend himself.
The four-term conservative leader projected business as usual on Sunday, touring the country's northern frontier and ramping up rhetoric about Iranian threats.
During elections, Netanyahu showcased his friendship with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in campaign posters. While the personal chemistry between Modi and Netanyahu has not been a secret, Netanyahu boasting about his relations with Modi in election posters was something that had never happened in the history of two countries.
The bonhomie between Modi and Netanyahu has been on full display since the Indian PM was first elected in May 2014 who was congratulated by the Israeli PM. Since then, the personal chemistry, backed by largely ideological affinity by their parent right-wing organisations, has transpired in various meetings, bilaterally as well as on multilateral platforms, twitter congratulations and phone calls.
In July 2017, Modi became the first-ever Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Netanyahu returned the visit to India in January 2018 with a large business delegation.
He later planned at least two visit to India this year, both cancelled due to his election bid. But Netanyahu contacted Modi to clarify that the repeated cancellations should not be interpreted as a diplomatic slight.
-with contribution from Reuters