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India tilting towards Israel

India tilting towards Israel
Many high-profile diplomatic affairs editors and correspondents were simply stupefied when the Kolkata-based Telegraph broke the story in the first week of September that India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval surreptitiously visited Israel and Iran in a short while back there before apparently to know where the grand mean between two inimical countries, Israel and Iran was. This was necessary for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is readying himself for a visit to both the countries in succession, hopefully by the end of this year. Never did any Indian Prime Minister visit Israel although as the Chief Minister of Gujarat Modi made a trip to Israel. So for him, the experience of touching down the tarmac of the Ben Gurion Airport, the largest international airport of Israel.

What had raised many eyebrows was Doval’s visit to Israel’s the largest nuclear establishment, the Negev Nuclear Research Centre where plutonium is produced and extracted and it has a powerful weapons-related infrastructure. The secret visit to Negev “points to the deepening strategic trust between India and Israel although officials remain unwilling to confirm explicitly any plans for formal nuclear cooperation” wrote Ali Ahmed, author of India’s Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia, On War in South Asia and On Peace in South Asia.

The choice of Doval as the NSA, one of the first choices for very important posts by Modi after taking over the reins as the PM, was meaningful for two reasons. First are his antecedents as the director, Intelligence Bureau. During his tenure, there was a spate of terrorism in the Indian hinterland beginning from the early months of 2005, directed against the Muslim minorities who are in his lexicon a synonym for terrorists. Which is why from the very beginning, the NSA expresses a soft attitude towards what has been coined by Ahmed as “majoritarian terrorists” in the latter’s repeated offensives against the so-called  “minority terrorism”. 

This is nothing short of patronisation of “saffron terrorism”. Foreign policy academics smell a distinct change in India’s age-old policy of unequivocal support for Palestinian statehood through multilateral forums. The NDA government has shifted very pronouncedly towards a new policy of  balancing Israel and Palestine from the very beginning of Modi era. This change was visibly hinted by the Union minister for home affairs Rajnath Singh during his visit to Israel in November 2014 as he did not go to Palestine. Neither the PM nor the minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj has criticised the systematic decimation of Palestinians in their homeland by the Zionist government in Tel Aviv. 

On the contrary, the PM often stressed the need for an expeditious beef-up of India's economic, political and strategic ties with Israel in an extensive way. He cultivated this when he was the CM of Gujarat. So there is <g data-gr-id="65">a distinctive</g> a break in the continuity of India’s West Asian policy in which opposition to Israel’s jingoist activities against the Arab countries.

The international community had been sure that Modi was dead sure of becoming the PM in 2014 and envisioned a pro-Israel shift in Indian diplomacy. The International Business Times wrote bluntly, “Narendra Modi, the right-wing, pro-Hindu nationalist Indian politician and chief of the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party, and the man who polls suggest will become the next prime minister of the world's most populous democracy, has long courted political and trade links with the state of Israel. Modi's ties to Israel, which BJP officials strongly endorse, have turned into a financial bonanza for the western Indian province of Gujarat, where he has served as chief minister for the past 13 years.” 

The external affairs minister is a vociferous admirer of <g data-gr-id="71">present</g> regime in Tel Aviv as the chairwoman of the Indo-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group between 2006 and 2009 Swaraj eulogised Israel as “reliable partner”. Besides these, Modi and his counterpart in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, had a meeting abroad. The bonhomie between the Modi regime in India and the bellicose Israeli rule is amply reflected in several defence-related deals /Among them are purchase of  262 Barak-I missiles for India’s Navy and purchase of the Israeli Spike anti-tank guided missiles launchers and missiles which were bought in preference over  Javelin from the USA. 

Manufactured by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, spike is a man-portable 'fire and forget' anti-tank <g data-gr-id="75">missile,</g> locked on to targets before shooting. In contrast, Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon <g data-gr-id="78">Co built</g> the US Javelin weapons system. Anyway, India will buy at least 8,000 such missiles and more than 300 launchers from Israel, the outgo in f foreign currency for this is around  $525 million and this was decided months ago at a meeting of India's Defence Acquisition Council. 

Proposals are afoot for <g data-gr-id="47">purchase</g> of six submarines from Israel too. There is a distinctly Modified tilt in the India’s policy in West Asia and at the centre-stage is Israel, an unprecedented phenomenon. The collaboration with the Zionist government will range from missiles to irrigation, from energy to cyber and very openly. Last but not the least, the involvement of NSA in matters related to external affairs sends out a message against peace. 
Sankar Ray

Sankar Ray

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