Atmosphere for Indo-Israeli ties highly conducive

India's Defense Minister Arun Jetley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh are said to be very appreciative of the need for better ties with Israel in the areas of security and intelligence.

overflowing dam in India  521 (photo credit: REUTERS/Amit Dave)
overflowing dam in India 521
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amit Dave)
During the United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi, a scholarly parliamentarian - India’s Minister of State for External Affairs - agreed with me that the then-ruling Congress and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party had been in total agreement with each other in promoting co-operation with Israel. Ever since Congress Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao decided to establish full diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Jerusalem in 1992, the successive Indian dispensations had carried forward that process consolidating their multi-faceted bilateral relations. The scholarly parliamentarian also wondered as to why the left parties in the country still remained opposed to Indo-Israeli cooperation when Russia and China, often their models - apparently, at least - in foreign and defense policies, had been firming up their ties with Israel.
Given this background, one thinks that with the arrival of Bharatiya Janata Party Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Indian political scene, Indo-Israeli ties are prone to attain newer heights. Modi has long been a great advocate of stronger ties with the Jewish state. He has visited Israel as Chief Minister of Gujarat and experienced how meaningful Israeli cooperation has been in the success story of the state he led until recently. He is likely to visit Israel as Prime Minister and repeat his Gujarat story at the all-India level promoting mutual endeavors in the areas of agriculture, industrial research and development, solar and thermal power, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, water recycling and water desalination plants.
The political atmosphere is highly conducive for Prime Minister Modi to boost ties with the Jewish state and implement his development agenda at home. His party has a majority of its own in Parliament today. In promoting ties with Israel, his government, unlike the previous governments, would not be restrained by any pressure of coalition politics. Also, unlike previous Indian governments with some voices of prejudice against Israel, there is an almost complete unanimity among all Cabinet Ministers today to boost the bilateral ties. Modi’s External Affairs Minister Sushama Swaraj is said to have been greatly influenced by the legendary Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. She was chairwoman of the Indo-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group (2006-2009) and has often described Israel as “a reliable partner.”
India's Defense Minister Arun Jetley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh are said to be very appreciative of the need for better ties with Israel in the areas of security and intelligence. India’s Defense Ministry has been aware of an assessment, according to which Russia’s recently growing bonhomie with China endangers New Delhi’s status as Moscow’s preferential defense customer. Moscow's recent decision to sell Islamabad M-35 attack helicopters indicates a future trend. As such, India may do well to cultivate Israel to replace Russia in this crucial area. Jerusalem could be very useful in New Delhi's determination to boost its defense indigenization too. As in the past, Israel must be interested in working with India today. It would be natural for Israel to help India in preserving the security of navigation in the Indian Ocean, for its trade routes are vital for Jewish economic interests as well. Besides, Israel today is facing the spectra of the European Union sanctions. It might be calculating that India, with its growing purchasing power of a burgeoning middle class, could be a viable alternative in case of any crisis in the future.
India's Minister of Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti is said to be very enthusiastic about possible Israeli cooperation in the task of cleaning the river which is one of the prime minister’s favorite projects today. Bharti is well aware of the giant strides Israel has made in water cleaning and water management and how positively Jerusalem has already been involved in many water-related projects, including water desalination plants in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Bharti is keen on using the Israeli method to preserve its water so as to benefit millions of Indians today.
Pertinently, Prime Minister Modi and all his ministers must also be having an ideological urge to foster closer ties with Israel. Their party derives its moral, ideological and organizational sustenance from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The latter has always enjoyed a great relationship with the Jewish state. Like some of the original proponents of Zionism, such as Theodore Herzl ( 1860- 1904) , Max Nordau 1849-1923 ) and Chaim Weizmann ( 1874- 1952), those of the Sangh’s Hindutva ideology, such as K B Hedgewar (1889-1940) and V D Savarkar ( 1883-1966) shared a somewhat common socio-political conviction. All these prominent Indian and Israeli personalities were self-professed atheists who longed for a ‘lost civilization’ and lamented that they had been the victims to a cruel phenomenon of the 'outsiders' dispossessing the originals from their own homelands. K.B Hedgewar founded the Sangh in 1925 with a view to promoting the concept of a united India rooted in indigenous ideology. He believed that the problems then, such as subjugation and oppression by 'foreigners', provincialism, and untouchability in the country, were the byproducts of an inherent flaw in the Indian character. The Sangh would unite all Indians on a common platform and instill in them discipline and national character to address such evils.
Today, the Sangh views Israel as a bulwark against Islamist terrorism of different brands. In 2003, when then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited India, it stated, “The entire world acknowledges that Israel has effectively and ruthlessly countered terror in the Middle East. Since India and Israel are both fighting a war against terrorism, we should learn a lesson or two from them.” On its part, Jerusalem has consistently appreciated the very nature and purpose of the Indian cultural nationalist organization and held it in high esteem. It may be recalled in December 2010 when then ruling Congress leader Digvijay Singh condemned the RSS as ‘targeting Muslims’ ‘in the garb of its nationalist ideology’ in ‘the same way as Nazis targeted Jews in the 1930s’; Jerusalem defended it saying, ‘no comparison can be made with the Nazi Holocaust in which six million Jews were massacred solely because they were Jewish.’
The author is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi.