Unfolding The Uncordial History Behind The Close Ties of India and Israel Relations

Jews have been a part of India more than thousand years. The most idiosyncratic aspect of the Indian Jewish experience is the complete absence of discrimination

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Hindutva and Zionism
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hug each other after reading their joint statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Nov. 15, 2016. VOA

– by Naina Mishra

July 4, 2017: PM Narendra Modi comes to Israel on the 4th of July, 2017 who is also the first Indian Prime Minister on a tour to Israel from India. Dissevering the India and Israel relations from Palestine, it is important to comprehend the gravity, history, and unfolding of the Israel-India relationship. The visit may have multiple folds, the most remarkable aspect the shared values and historical ties that bind the two nations together.

Jews have been a part of India more than thousand years. The most idiosyncratic aspect of the Indian Jewish experience is the complete absence of discrimination.

Ancient India and Israel relations
Group of Beni-Israel in Ancient Costume. XIXth century. Wikimedia

Jews in India have lived without any fear of persecution, a fact that has been well esteemed by Israel. The community’s contributions to India remains immense despite the fact that Indian Jews population extremely thin.

 Past: Conflicting Indo-Israel Relation 

India’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state in January 1992 corrected the anomalous situation between the nations that lasted for four decades. It’s been 25 years since then the two nations’ shares cordial relations with each other.  Although Israel and India gained independence from the United Kingdom within months of each other, the ties between Israel and India were not always warm. Both the countries were headed in different directions, India as a leader of Non-Aligned Movement maintained relations to Arab World and the Soviet Union, and on the other side, Israel linked its future to close ties with the United States and Western Europe.

Although Israel and India gained independence from the United Kingdom within months of each other, the ties between Israel and India were not always warm. Both the countries were headed in different directions, India as a leader of Non-Aligned Movement maintained relations to Arab World and the Soviet Union, and on the other side, Israel linked its future to close ties with the United States and Western Europe.

Mahatma Gandhi in a letter titled Harijan, The Jews wrote:

“My sympathies are all with the Jews…..But my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for national home for Jews does not make much appeal to me….Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that English belongs to England…. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today is not the moral code of conduct”

 

Shashi Tharoor stated in his book “Pax Indica”: Arab World constitutes an Integral part of India’s extended neighborhood and is a region of critical importance to India in strategic security and economic terms.

Many Arab nations were against the foundations upon which Israel as a nation was built. Israel and Palestine conflict raged the matter furthermore resulting in Arab world detesting the Israel state. India, however, chose to cling to the Arab world, which was a part of the larger Indian diplomatic strategy of trying to counter Pakistan’s influence in the Arab world and safeguarding its oil supplies from the Arab countries. As a result of which India started supporting Palestine at that time.

In 1950, India officially recognized the State of Israel, two years after its establishment in 1948.

India and Israel relations
Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru with Israeli diplomat Michael Michael. Wikimedia

Following the recognition of Israel, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru stated, “We would have recognized Israel long ago because Israel is a fact. We refrained because of our desire not to offend the sentiments of our friends in the Arab countries.” However, the Nehru government did not pursue full diplomatic relations with Israel as it was supporting the Palestinian cause.

However, the Nehru government did not pursue full diplomatic relations with Israel as it was supporting the Palestinian cause.

India was a founder member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that was supportive of anti-colonial struggles around the world and this also meant strong support for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  In 1974, India became the first Non-Arab country which recognized Palestine Liberation Organization.  India and Israel were also on the opposite sides during the Cold War, with the US strongly supporting Israel, and India inclined towards the Soviet Union.

The Congress Party in India opposed Israel in large part because it viewed Israel as the analog of Pakistan, a state based on religion. Israel on the other side could foresee India as the major importer of arms and military equipment which instilled the interest of Israel in India.

The Beginning of Indo-Israel Ties

After the end of the cold war and fall of Soviet Union, India was forced to reorient its foreign policy under the influence of world’s major powers and upgrade diplomatic relations with Israel to full ambassadorial level. Later, under NDA government India strived for better relations with Israel between the years 1998 to 2003.

India and Israel diplomatic relations
Israeli and Indian flags in New Delhi during PM Ariel Sharon’s official visit to India, September 2003. Wikimedia

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon marked the history by visiting India in the year 2003, which was an important benchmark that made clear to the world that India was no longer shy about its burgeoning relationship with Israel.

 India and Israel Fight against Terrorism

The terror 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai and its aftermath made the two nations realize the importance of cooperating on a larger scale to combat terrorism. Being domestic and pluralistic state with large domestic Muslim majorities, countering terrorism became imperative for both the countries.

India and Israel defence ties
VAdm Ram Rutberg Commander-in-Chief, Israeli Navy inspecting a Guard of Honour at South Block, New Delhi. Wikimedia

Both the countries face the bane of Islamist terrorism sponsored and abetted by neighboring countries, mostly under non-democratic regimes and capable of transferring weapons of mass destruction to the terrorist organizations. States such as Pakistan in South Asia, or Iran and Syria in the Middle East, have long been used terror as a mechanism of their foreign policies. The extremist Jihadist topmost exhortations were always the liberation of all of Palestine, Kashmir, and the total destruction of the United States, the realization of which drew the two nations closer. There is also a sort of discrepancy of perception between India and Israel on account of terrorism.  As for India, Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism whereas Israel reserves that status for Iran.

There is also a sort of discrepancy of perception between India and Israel on account of terrorism.  As for India, Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism whereas Israel reserves that status for Iran.

As a matter of fact, India’s pro-Arab stance has not been rewarded by the Arab world. It did not receive any backing from them in the resolution of problems faced by India in Kashmir. There have been no serious attempts by Arab to pressurise Pakistan, on the contrary, it supports Pakistan to build support for Islamabad and build Jihadist groups in Kashmir.

 Indo-Israel Agricultural ties 

In 2008, Israel and India finished an agricultural plan introducing native to the Middle East and Mediterranean to India, with a particular focus on production of olives.

Israel is an arid country that has managed to turn into a horticulture Wonderland and is also known for its cutting-edge irrigation technology. Israel has been setting up centres of excellence in agriculture since 2008 under the Indo-Israel Agriculture project. India can do wonders in crop production with Israel agriculture technology.

 Cyber Security 

India and Israel are all set to institutionalize cyber security cooperation in the run-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to Jerusalem in July. Israel is a leading global power in offensive and defensive technologies and is one of the very few countries to have the capability of intercepting Net-based communication platforms.

Given that terror and extremist groups world over communicate through Voice Over Internet Protocol, India looks toward Israeli cooperation towards this area.

 Sharing Intelligence: Mossad and RAW 

When the  Reseach and Analysis Wing (RAW) was founded in September 1968 by Rameshwar Nath Kao, he was advised by then Prime Minister Indra Gandhi to cultivate links with Mossad. This was suggested as a countermeasure to military links between that of Pakistan and China, as well as with North Korea. Israel was also concerned that Pakistani army officers were training Libyans and Iranians in handling Chinese and North Korean military equipment. Mossad was assumed to support RAW in Kargil war by giving the important battle information.

In November 2015, TOI reported that agents from Mossad and MI5 were protecting Prime Minister Narendra  Modi during his visit to Turkey to attend the 2015 G-20 Summit. The newspaper reported that the agents had been called in to provide additional cover to Modi’s security detail in wake of Paris attacks.

India and Israel not only exchange crucial intelligence information on Islamist terrorist groups but Israel is also helping India to fight terrorism in Kashmir by providing important logistical support.

Israel Defense Support to India

India and Israel defence ties
On January 26, 2001, an earthquake hit the city of Gujarat, India. The earthquake reached 7.7 on the Richter Scale, killing approximately 20,000 people, and injuring another 167,000. It also destroyed nearly 400,000 homes, leaving 600,000 people homeless. The IDF delegation of search and rescue soldiers created a field hospital (in close proximity to the disaster site) with 100 beds. The delegation treated up to 1,300 injured, performed 52 surgeries and delivered 12 babies. Wikimedia

India and Israel are close to signing a deal for Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) worth an estimated INR 3200 crore. Israel-India defense deal includes 8000 plus missiles, 300-plus launchers and technology transfer.

Seven contracts have been signed with Israel, keeping it second to the US with whom nine contracts have been signed.

– by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: @Nainamishr94