As the old maxim goes, "If you don't tell your story, someone else will." For too long Israel has been seen through the prism of Arab-Israeli conflict in India. For too long mindsets forged during the Cold War have dictated the way Indian intellectuals perceive and portray Israel. Jindal Center for Israel Studies (JCIS), affiliated to Jindal School of International Affairs (Sonipat, India), is one initiative trying to change perceptions and introduce contemporary Israel to young Indian scholars.

In line with this objective, JCIS along with IDC Herzliya organized a day-long seminar titled "India-Israel Track-II Dialogue" on Monday, April 30. Besides the delegates from IDC Herzliya and Israeli officials, the Indian side was prominently represented by academicians from the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University at the event in New Delhi.

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It was an attempt to turn over a new page in Indian academic debate. If the 'Young Turks' were forthcoming with their admiration for Israel's achievements and the desire to delink Israel-India ties from the Middle-East conflict – the 'Old Guard' wasn't willing to give an inch on their long held ideological positions.

But lively debates aside and the truth be told; as crucial the need to understand the region for the diplomatic and security establishment may be, the scholarship in India has its apparent deficits when it comes to Middle Eastern Studies. As eminent Professor P.R. Kumaraswamy anecdotally summed up at the seminar – the entire corps of experts could fit in a proverbial telephone booth.

Institutions like Jindal Center for Israel Studies (JCIS) want to play a leading role in training future academicians, diplomats and business leaders. According to JCIS-Convener Rohee Das Gupta, the Center wants to "build a research colloquium of scholars interested in the study of modern Israel".

As India de-links relations with the State of Israel from outdated ideological considerations, it is time for academic discourse to open itself to realities of multifaceted Israel-India ties.

Within the span of this week alone, two of India's biggest private sector companies, Infosys and Reliance Industries have announced long-term investments in Israeli start up scene. The decision to invest in Israel is driven by the necessity to tap into cutting-edge innovations needed to retain competitiveness in the global market.

Both India and Israel face similar challenges in today's competitive world. In a rapidly globalizing market place, they both have to fight off brain-drain by offering engaging and rewarding workplaces to their best and the brightest.

By linking start up and innovation ecosystems the entrepreneurs in both the countries are creating synergies that would be indispensable for our technology-driven future. Technology that would address the challenges of urbanization, water management, food- and energy security.

But we Indians cannot have our IT-Departments, Business and Tech Schools bullish on teaming up with institutions in Israel, and our Social Science faculties acting as training camps for anti-Israel activism.

As we defend the right to dissent and disagree in academic spaces, we must resist bigotry, hate and dogma therein as well.
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