India's schizophrenic relationship with Israel

Source : SIFY
By : Sunil Rajguru
Last Updated: Sun, Jul 27, 2014 17:48 hrs

India and Israel have many things in common. Both are victims of terrorism. Both are surrounded by hostile neighbours. Many commentators see them as natural allies.

After the pseudo-Communist state of India ended in 1991 post-Liberalization, one of the most significant 180 degree turns India did was with regards to Israel. In the last two odd decades, Indo-Israeli ties have been growing in leaps and bounds and the military-related turnover alone is touching $10 billion.

Today India is the largest purchaser of Israel's military equipment. And it's not just arms. Agriculture and technology is also a biggie.

While many leaders of the world make it a point to boycott Israel and never visit that country, this is the first time that so many government leaders in India have visited Israel in the past. This is significant because both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had opposed the creation of Israel.

While Prime Minister Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India in the Vajpayee regime, Narendra Modi could well become the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. Modi and many BJP leaders have already visited Israel in the past along with many Congress ministers.

It is an illustrious list: Sushma Swaraj, SM Krishna, Kapil Sibal, Sharad Pawar…

While till 1991 India was firmly pro-Palestine and anti-Israel, you could say that the situation has already reversed. But it's still schizophrenic. While the government and many common citizens are getting more sympathetic towards Israel, India's Civil Society with their intellectuals, historians, activists and editors are still virulently anti-Israel.

Of course the Israel-Palestine issue is far from cut and dry. Israel has been attacked so many times by its Arab neighbours in the past that on the global stage at least it is definitely a victim. While it is true that hundreds of Palestinians are dying in the current crisis things are complicated by the leadership of Hamas.

Hamas rules the Gaza Strip, but is considered a terrorist organization by America, the European Union and even some Muslim countries. Most of the Hamas-like terrorist organizations of the world see America, Israel and India as enemies.

Interestingly Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan Walid Abu Ali has equated Palestine with Kashmir. It is ironic that while there is a host of prominent personalities in India loudly defending Palestine, the possibility that the people there would identify India more with their arch-enemy Israel is lost to them.

In fact in Iraq ISIS has declared war on a host of countries including India and released a map showing India as part of the Caliphate. In the battle between ISIS and India there are no coconuts for guessing who Hamas would side with.

Indians are also enamoured by the activities of Non Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin all over the world, especially in America. Before Israel was formed Jews were spread all over the world including India.

It is estimated that there are about 70,000-80,000 such 'Indian Jews' living in India who are also under siege from the rockets of Hamas. But curiously this story has not been picked up on a large scale by Indian TV news channels.

Whether one likes it or not India if firmly on the path of greater ties with Israel and only Civil Society will be left holding the Palestinian cause. Already there have been protests in front of the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi by them.

But what was started by PV Narasimha Rao and taken forward by AB Vajpayee is certain to be cemented by Modi.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Modi on Twitter, the latter replied by saying that Indo-Israeli ties would be taken to greater heights. That Tweet was a subject of debate on social media even in forums outside India.

On social media, already the fights involving Modi, the Congress and the AAP have become legendary. Now add Israel to the mix. Twitter is sharply divided about whether to support Israel or Palestine in the latest round of conflict.

In fact when India went against Israel in the UN vote recently, Modi faced a huge amount of flak from his own supporters.

One is sure to expect a lot of international and national heated debates if and when Modi finally visits Israel!

Image: Indian Muslims hold placards during a demonstration to protest against Israeli airstrikes on Gaza strip, in Bangalore, India, Thursday, July 17, 2014.

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.

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