After Mumbai attack, Indo-Israel ties stronger than ever

By including Jewish community center in attack, terrorists were telling Indian government to distance itself from Israel.

Mumbai attack orphan Moishe Holzberg 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mumbai attack orphan Moishe Holzberg 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai left more than 170 dead and Indian society to grapple with its nation’s equivalent of America’s September 11. The analogy is so strong in the Indian psyche, in fact, that they refer to the attack as simply “26/11.”
Collectively, most of the targets – a commuter rail station, an upscale coffee shop, two luxury hotels – represented the democratic, market-oriented, global values embraced by India in the past 20 years and embodied in Mumbai’s vibrant business environment and diverse, multi-ethnic culture.
The attacks on these locations were symbolic, a striking down of all things deemed unacceptable to the extremist mind.
But what about the other target, a Jewish community center at Nariman Point? In India, a country that has never suffered from the scourge of anti-Semitism, what did the terrorists hope to accomplish? What message did they intend to send? The Chabad House, a symbol of Jewish outreach and hospitality, was deliberately and brutally assaulted, leaving six Jews dead. In choosing such a small, insignificant target, the assailants were not merely expressing their hatred of all things Jewish. They were sending an overt message to the Indian government and its citizens to distance themselves from a growing relationship with the state and the people of Israel. In this regard, the terrorists utterly and completely failed.
AS WE approach the third anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, the Indo-Israeli relationship is strong and growing.
What began as a mutual concern about the rise of global terrorism and need to protect citizens served as the impetus for significantly strengthening and broadening the areas of mutual cooperation. Today, bilateral trade surpasses $5 billion annually and is firmly rooted in a mutual drive for technological excellence.
A free trade agreement is expected to be signed in 2012, the 20th anniversary of the formal launch of diplomatic relations, and will likely double the volume of goods and services flowing between the two countries.
On many fronts, Israel and India find themselves facing the future together. Israeli and Indian researchers and entrepreneurs are collaborating on a wide range of life improving technologies addressing critical issues such as water management, agricultural production, alternative energy sources, biotechnology and medicine, space, nano-technology and homeland security, to name but a few.
On a more pragmatic level, the partnership brings together the best of both worlds, marrying Israel’s penchant for developing and commercializing new technologies with India’s vast reservoir of experienced, global managers and educated human resources. In doing so, Israeli start-ups will be able to contemplate a corporate life cycle that extends beyond the allure of the lucrative exit to that of launching lasting multinational enterprises.
Perhaps most importantly, the blossoming Indo-Israel partnership is anchored by a mutual love and respect for the principles of democracy, and a passion for realizing a better future for their people. Despite living in the world’s toughest neighborhoods, both countries stand as pillars of economic, political and social stability and progress.
The people that planned and executed the 26/11 attack may have intended to drive a wedge between the Indian and Israeli peoples, but they succeeded in doing just the opposite. The chaos and sadness of those 60 hours of siege served only to amplify and reinforce the mutual concerns and commitment to overcome shared by both countries. Both nations’ continued success, separately and together, will serve as a resounding rejection of the destructive ideology that still seeks to undermine them.

The writer is director of the India Program at The Israel Project.