PRIME MINISTER of India Narendra Modi looks on during his 2017 visit to Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signs a document of cooperation..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Indian public has eagerly awaited the arrival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The media here has closely debated the outcome of the visit. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart share a good relationship and have in the past expressed solidarity on a number of issues.
India did not vote in support of the recent UN decision on Jerusalem, but such a setback will in no way undermine the bilateral ties these two countries have the potential to achieve. The potential areas of cooperation and development far outweigh the result of India’s vote.
The history of both nations has been fraught with terrorism.
Post-independence both India and Israel faced the wrath of diabolical neighbors, but were successful in putting a temporary stop to their nefarious agendas. Israel emerged victorious in its meticulously planned military operations in 1948 and India has been battling Pakistan ever since independence and has fought numerous wars over Kashmir.
To date both countries continue to endure the dastardly attacks of terrorists orchestrated by anti-national elements which are aided and funded by state actors. In Israel’s case it is Iran which is currently the menace and in India’s case the irritant is Pakistan; a country notorious for aiding and abetting terrorism. The potent alliance of Hezbollah and Hamas could prove to be a security challenge for Israel.
Similarly Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed continue to be a profound source of anxiety for Indian security forces stationed in the restive state of Kashmir.
If 2017 marked 25 years of formal diplomatic ties between the two nations, 2018 will mark 10 since the horrific attacks in Mumbai. The cosmopolitan city is waiting to catch a glimpse of Moshe Holtzberg, who lost his parents during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008. Haunting images of the National Security Guard battling gun-wielding terrorists form across the border, who shot dead innocent civilians, continue to be ingrained in the consciousness of the public.
As the terrorists scampered in different directions in Mumbai, they were finally eliminated by the security forces. But the attack claimed countless lives; 166 to be precise. The attack itself has repeatedly been invoked by various sections of the political brass which advocate a draconian approach to terrorism.
Israel has more leverage to take a hawkish stance when it comes to terrorism since its foes are less militarily competent and enjoy virtually no international recognition, especially after US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish nation. India faces an opponent which perhaps is well on its way to regarding itself as the face of international terrorism. Pakistan always has and continues to flirt with an impending catastrophe.
There is no doubt that Netanyahu and Modi will firmly condemn state actors that wittingly promote international terrorism. The historic visit by an Israeli prime minister, only the second such visit after that of prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2003, is going to give impetus to the Indo-Israeli relationship.
The emerging contours of this relationship are going to be closely monitored by the Islamic world.
What has caused a relationship once so unstable and unpredictable to transform into a beacon of hope and intensive cooperation? When Israel encountered the First Intifada in the late 1980s, India experienced something similar in Kashmir. Close to a quarter of a million Hindu Pundits were forced to leave the serene valley due to a rapidly deteriorating security situation.
Insurgency and civil strife were rampant and the security scenario was worse then what India experienced in the state of Punjab when the Khalistan movement took place there in the early 1980s calling for a separate country for the Sikhs.
This ultimately resulted in the assassination of one of India’s most dynamic prime ministers, Indira Gandhi. The 1980s was a decade of tremendous hardship for India.
Compounding this were a number of factors which compelled India to finally turn away from a left-leaning state to one which espoused the virtues of an open-market economy.
In the early 1990s the brutal assassination of India’s youngest former prime minister, a deteriorating balance of payment account, spiraling oil prices due to a fierce war in the Middle East between Iraq and Kuwait, and profound macroeconomic instability in the Indian economy forced India to adopt a Western model of development which championed the idea of a free market.
Despite the fact that a large number of Indians worked in the Middle East and were sending generous remittances, India forged a diplomatic relationship with Israel. What was once conducted behind closed doors was now open knowledge, no longer a surreptitious affair.
Even though Modi’s “Make in India” campaign might run counter to the interests of Israel’s defense industry, cooperation in this field will foster a fruitful relationship. India depends heavily on Israel for its defense equipment. A country with a burgeoning population which is confronting a paucity of drinking water can also certainly learn invaluable lessons from Israel. Businessmen here are quite keen to see what happens in the R&D space as well.
Israel will have to tread a very thin rope when it comes to weighing its relationship with India vis-à-vis its relationship with China. It stands to gain from cooperating with both countries, but a fruitful relationship with India is bound to benefit it more in the long run.
The India-US-Israel trilateral relationship can be a guiding force in a world which is bound to be buffeted by uncertainties in 2018 and beyond. A congruence of interests in various arenas is bound to provide a fillip to bilateral ties.The writer is a political commentator. He can be reached at email@example.com.