Israel and India: The Future of the Alliance

Indian attitudes toward Israel began to shift after decades of following a pro-Arab line which yielded no apparent benefit to India. The Arabs did not provide military aid or crucial intelligence to India; Israel, however, despite India’s attitude toward it, did, in 1962, 1965, and 1971. The Arabs had no advanced weaponry to sell to India; Israel did. The Arabs had no expertise in irrigation, water conservation, desalinization to help Indian farmers; Israel did.The Arabs had no experience with promoting entrepreneurship or high-tech; Israel, the “start-up nation,” did.  In 1991, India defied the Muslim bloc and voted at the U.N. to repeal the infamous “Zionism is racism” resolution. In January 1992, India finally established diplomatic relations with Israel, and ties between the two nations slowly warmed, primarily due to common strategic interests and security threats. The formation of the Organisation of IslamiiIsc Cooperation (OIC) and the blocking of India by Pakistan from joining the OIC contributed to this diplomatic shift. It was now clear to many in ndia that they would never be truly accepted by the Muslim nations, no matter what India did to support “Palestine.” On a diplomatic level, India and Israel managed throughout this period to maintain healthy relations, despite India’s repeated strong condemnations at the U.N. of Israeli military actions against the “Palestinians.”
Under the leadership of the Congress Party, India recognized the PLO in 1974, allowing it to set up an office, and then, in 1988, the Indian government recognized the “state of Palestine.” But that recognition may not be permanent, if Modi and other pro-Israel voices in the BJP get their way.
The biggest change to Indian-Israel relations occurred when Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014. A Hindu nationalist, Modi has throughout his career exhibited an understanding of what the Muslim invaders and conquerors meant for the ancient civilization of Hindu India; he agrees with the writer V. S. Naipaul, who described India after the Muslim invasion and centuries of conquest, as “a wounded civilization.” Modi had always been known for his palpable lack of sympathy for Islam. When he was Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat in 2002, inter-communal riots broke out after Muslims set fire to a train filled with Hindu pilgrims returning from a visit to the temple at Ayodhya. Sixty Hindus died, and many more were injured. In retaliation, Hindus started rioting and attacking Muslims. Muslims attacked back.These riots lasted three days. Hundreds were killed on both sides. Modi did not immediately suppress them (nor is it likely he could have done so before they petered out of their own accord), which in the Western press, never sympathetic to the Hindu nationalists but always willing to cut Muslims some slack, earned him the reputation of being an anti-Muslim “bigot.” Muslims have repeatedly tried to have Modi convicted of supposedly fomenting the violence. The violence from Hindus did not need any “fomenting” by Modi; the burning alive of sixty innocent Hindu pilgrims was quite enough. In any case, Modi was absolved of the charge, by every court, all the way up to, and including, India’s Supreme Court.

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