Narendra Modi became the first Prime Minister of free India to visit Israel when he landed in Tel Aviv on July 4, 2017. The visit came 14 years after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to New Delhi and 25 years after the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992. This visit is a milestone marking an important shift in India’s Israel policy; skipping Palestine visit (that would have immediately preceded or followed the Israel visit) is only an overt manifestation of that.
It was also an assertion of the changing geopolitical realities by the leader of the largest democracy with fast growing economy. It clearly signalled that now India is strong enough to assert itself at international level and its ties with Israel will no longer be governed by moods of the Islamic gulf countries, while it is still genuinely concerned about Palestinian interests. Therefore, his visit also disconnected Indian foreign policy from the domestic compulsions of ‘Muslim appeasement’ politics that has been (and still is) the central theme of governance by the Congress Party that ruled the country most of the time since independence.
However, it was neither Modi’s first visit to Israel, nor was it his first meeting with Israeli PM. Modi had visited Israel as chief minister of Gujarat in October 2006 and had met his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s annual session in 2016. They had also met during the Paris climate summit in November 2015. The Israeli PM sees Modi as one among the “most important global leaders”.
The ground for Modi’s historic visit was prepared by visits of several functionaries and delegates of the Indian government. For instance, trips by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, several senior secretaries and a multi-party parliamentary delegation led by the Minister of State for Agriculture S S Ahluwalia. Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lamba also went on a five day travel recently. President Mukharjee and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visits to Israel must also be seen in the same light.
Alongside these preparatory groundwork, PM Modi had also visited most of the Muslim countries in the Middle East; namely, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Iran etc and hosted their leaders and delegations in India to ensure continuation of good relations with them.
More importantly, just few weeks ago in May 2017, Modi even hosted the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and reasserted India’s traditional support for an independent Palestinian nation “at peace with Israel”. The two sides also signed several pacts in sectors such as IT, health, agriculture and so on. So, the Palestinians were well aware of his stand-alone Israel visit.
Clearly, Modi’s Israel visit was the result of careful pre-planning and thoughtfulness.
Hypocrisy of “Muslim Appeasement” Policy
India’s Israel policy has been a glaring example of hypocrisy that has taken deep roots in the thinking of politicians who ruled India since independence but now are sitting in opposition since 2014. This hypocrisy was a spill-over of the ‘Muslim appeasement’ for vote-bank politics started by the Nehru family owned Congress Party. As a result, the ruling Congress Party made ‘appeasing Muslims’ a central theme of running the ‘independent’ Indian State of 85% Hindus and where Constitution doesn’t allow discrimination on religious or ethnic grounds!!!
The clout of radical Mullahs can be seen from example of famous Shah Bano case of mid 80s, when the ruling Congress Party amended country’s Constitution to negate a Supreme Court verdict that went in favour of a Talaq victim Muslim lady, Shah Bano. This case clearly exposed how the so-called ‘secular’ politicians operated from the pockets of radical Mullahs. Their ignore-Hindu faces became exposed few years later when over half a million Kashmiri Hindus were driven away from the Kashmir valley by radical Mullahs and they did little to protect or rehabilitate these unfortunate Hindus. It highlighted the ugly truth that Hindus are hardly safe in free India, which the world sees as a Hindu nation. This mass scale exodus fully convinced the 85% Hindus that they have no political voice or security, and that the so-called politics in the name of ‘secularism’ is fully centered on Muslim community.
In the 1990s, as Italy born Sonia Gandhi planted herself as as head of the family owned Congress Party, the ignore-Hindu brand of ‘secularism’ decisively turned into a visibly anti-Hindu stance retaining the favour-Muslim flavor. Radical Islamists in Pakistan and around the world love to see India’s ‘secular’ thinkers in action. They rejoice whenever the likes of Mani Shankar Aiyar or Digvijay Singh open their mouths or when Sonia or her mediocre son spit venom against Modi, BJP or Hindu organizations. Today this ‘secular’ tribe gets badly disturbed with the word ‘nationalism’. Many prominent Congressis like Sandeep Dikshit don’t hesitate to even attack Indian army chief because the army symbolises ‘nationalism’. His filthy thinking again surfaced recently when 7 Amarnath pilgrims were killed by Islamic terrorists.
If Pakistan (which is no longer an Islamic State, but a Wahhabi State) appears so emboldened in its endless anti-India campaign, it is due to the presence of such weird self-destructive creatures on the Indian political landscape. A wise Jain monk recently succinctly summed up the Indian scenario when he said: Indian ‘secular’ are a bigger security threat than Pakistan and its Islamic terrorists combined.
How Indian ‘Secular’ See Israel
India’s hardcore secularists think along these lines: “Since gulf Muslim countries hate the Jewish nation, India’s Muslim community must necessarily do so. And since their political survival squarely depends upon Muslim votes, they can’t not allow India to befriend Israel.” Thus, their habitual ranting against Israel is deeply rooted in comradery with radical Mullahs for Muslim votes, as exemplified last year.
Last year, Israel went on offensive to counter terror actions in Gaza – and the Indian ‘secular’ sounded like the biggest paranoids of the world, as usual. Politically irrelevant Comrade Sitaram Yechury demanded suspension of all military purchases from Israel and suggested that “India cannot be a party to this genocide.” His buddy from CPI, D Raja, wanted a “categorical stand condemning Israel.” For Congress Party’s leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, Ghulam Nabi Azad, it was regretful that New Delhi did not raise its voice against the “massacre” and wanted the House to pass a resolution condemning the Israeli aggression. With the ‘virus of Muslim’ appeasement deep in their blood, they can’t distinguish the actions of a liberal democratic Israeli State from the murderous Islamic terrorists.
However, arrival of BJP (whom the Indian ‘secular’ accuse of being ‘nationalist’!!) at the Union government in 2014 brought fresh and rational thinking that started a national discourse untainted by the disease of ‘fake secularism’.
Jewish dominated Israel and Hindu dominated India can now mingle freely without worrying about radical Islamists and their ‘secular’ servants in India.
Futility of Palestine-Centric Israel Policy
The futility of blind support to the Arab lobby has become rather obvious in the past two decades. The Islamic Arab world remained firmly glued behind Pakistan, turning a blind eye to its cross border terrorist activities in Kashmir. The Arab nations still allow use of the Organization of Islamic Conference to build support for Pakistan and the anti-India jihadi groups operating from its soil.
But what has changed today is the world scenario; it is not the same as it was 20-30 years ago. The global order is seeing faster realignments today than any time in the last century. So, if Islamic Arab nations can’t see India’s point of view on Kashmir, on Islamist terrorism and on its security concerns, there is no reason why India remain so sensitive to their ‘Islamic’ worldview.
Since 1992, successive Indian governments began to concentrate more on India’s wider strategic goals at the international forums and simultaneously shifted away from the obsession with single-point ‘Palestine Cause’ as the sole driver of its Israel policy. Thus, India began denouncing Palestinian suicide bombings and other terrorist acts in Israel and stopped ‘automatic’ support of anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations.
Thus, while retaining genuine concern for the Palestinian cause India also started expanding its commercial and defence ties with Israel. As a result, has India emerged as the world’s largest buyer of Israeli weaponry and as Israel’s major trade partner in Asia in recent years, closely following China and Hong Kong.
Many policy experts also point out the example of an Arab nation like Jordan that maintains its traditional Islamic ties with the Palestine and yet has developed a healthy relationship with Israel. Beyond the domestic irrational ‘Muslim appeasement’ lobby there is no logical reason for India not to take a similar route.
What Makes India-Israeli Partnership Important Today
There are compelling reasons why India should make strong ties with Israel. There are many issues that make India and Israel natural global partners in the current global order.
Trusted Friend: The first is the past covert friendly relationship. Israel helped India during the 1962 Indo-China war. In the 1971 Bangladesh war, Israel purposely delayed sending back Pakistani aircrafts that had gone there for maintenance. It again helped without reservations during the Kargil conflict in 1999. It was a time when the global powers had placed sanctions on India after its nuclear tests in 1998 and were unwilling to share high technologies. But Israel again helped whole-heartedly. It expedited supply of UAVs, helped train the Indian crew and provided images of Pak army positions. Even in June 2002 when India contemplated a limited military strike against Pakistan as part of “Operation Parakram,” Israel sent military hardware through special planes.
Counter terrorism and border security: Both nations are victims of Islamic terrorism for so long and are surrounded by hostile Islamic neighbours. As Pakistan continues to harbour Jihadi terrorists and continues its efforts to push them into Indian borders, India increasingly needs sophisticated anti-terrorism technologies and surveillance systems. Israel is readily willing to get into counter-terrorism partnership with India by sharing its state-of-the-art technical knowhow.
Given its long experience with Islamic terrorism coming from its neighbourhood, Israel has acquired proven expertise in small and medium range conflict zones. This is precisely what India needs to more effective counter Pak sponsored terrorism.
Border fencing and electronic surveillance are areas where Israel can be an ideal strategic partner. India needs better security at its Pak borders to keep Pak-trained terrorists away and in the Bangladesh border region in the east to curb cross border infiltration and smuggling.
Strategic partnership: As Pakistan is increasingly pushed away by the US Trump administration, it has started to lean closer towards China. Many defence expert think that given the massive Chinese investment in infrastructure projects and its increasing troops presence and terrorist groups regularly weakening Pak governance machinery, Pakistan is on the way to become a Chinese colony in next 10-15 years. The China-Pak now poses a bigger threat to India than before. Thus, it makes sense to aim for a long term strategic partnership with Israel.
Defence supplies: Israeli tanks, missiles, and drone technologies are among the best in the world. India can ensure its long term security needs through technology transfers and join production plans for various defense equipments. Israeli experts are confident that Indo-Israeli bilateral ties would move beyond the short term buying and selling of goods and the focus would shift towards joint research and development. Signs are already there: in February 2017, India cleared a ₹17,000 crore deal for jointly developing with Israel a medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) for the army.
Israel is all set to replace the US as the major exporter of arms and ammunitions to India with Barak missiles, surveillance drones and other big league defense deals. India has already awarded a two billion dollar contract to Israel Aerospace Industries for supply of Medium Range Surface to Air Missiles to the Indian Army. Similarly, the long-range surface-to-air missiles, including Barak 8, will provide security from anti-ship missiles at ranges out to 70km.
Pak’s dirty nukes: Pakistan’s dirty nukes (also seen as ‘global Islamic Atomic bombs’ by many) are of course a direct threat to India, but through Islamic comradery with Arab world, they can always possibly end up with gulf nation and get aimed at Israel too in unforeseen circumstances in the future. Then, given increasing close cooperation between Pak military and Islamic terrorist there is always the very real possibility of Pak’s nukes falling in the hands of terrorists any time in future. Possibility of such a scenario would again highly magnify security threat to both India and Israel.
Commercial ties: Israel can gain a lot from the fast growing Indian economy and a huge market through stronger India-Israel partnership. This was emphasized by the Israeli PM who talked of “Make With India’ complimenting Modi’s ‘Make In India’ program. On the other side, India will get the benefit of latest technologies in which Israel is among the pioneers.
Key global partnership: There are a number of areas where India-Israel ties would be key to the emerging global order, which is seeing much speedier realignments in the light of two most important global issues – Islamic terrorism and climate change. Given the confused nature of Trump Presidency in the US, India will be a major global ally for Israel.
Indian Diaspora: Ancient peaceful ties between Hindus and Jews dates back to 2000 years ago and have survived till date. There are around 80,000 Indian Jews who live in Israel and retain many of the cultural practices of India. They can easily serve as catalyst to strengthen Indo-Israeli ties. An important part of Modi’s diplomacy is engaging with the Indian Diaspora.
Agriculture: Israel is also a leading global player in rain water harvesting, sea water desalination, and effective irrigation of dry lands and so on. These are significant in the era of climate change, rapid loss of fresh water bodies and rise in seawater levels. In India, farmers live tormented by unruly monsoon rain pattern and alternating droughts and flash floods. Israeli experience will be valuable for them.