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India barks up the wrong tree with Israel

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September 13, 2017

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By M. Ghazalli Khan

In an article in the Economic Times “India is Israel’s top destination for arms exports, buying 41 per cent of export between 2012 and 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent global conflict and arms-research institute. Israel is India’s third-largest source of arms, with a 7.2 per cent share of imports between 2012 and 2016, next to the US (14 per cent) and Russia (68 per cent)”.

Since India established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, covering a wide range of issues from defence and homeland security, to agriculture and water management, and now education and even outer space. The Indian writer Prabir Purkayastha has argued that India cannot be a major “buyer of Israeli arms… and claim innocence when charged with helping subsidize the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.” There is also, allegedly, a cost to India’s reputation in the developing world, whose backing is crucial if India is to gain the permanent seat on the UN Security Council it has long coveted.

Supporters of a justice in Kashmir draw comparisons between the Indian and Israeli militaries. Modi himself drew such a parallel after launching preemptive military strikes against alleged terrorist safe havens in the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. We copied Israeli tactics when an Indian army officer strapped a Kashmiri civilian onto a jeep as a “human shield,” arguing that if Israel could do it, then we should too.

Calls from retired military officials ask India to replicate the Israeli model of total social mobilization against terrorism. On the ground, things are different. Israel’s occupation was openly rejected when young activists in a south Indian town sought to show solidarity with besieged Palestinians by putting up signs renaming one of its streets after Gaza. Sangh Parivar affiliates exploded with rage comparison the town to an ISIS den.

The article we share shows how India’s ‘fatal embrace with Israel takes India down the wrong track. It is devoid of a vision that is needed to end an illegal occupation and a colonialist regime in Israel that occupies the Palestinians with fierceness and viciousness that has few, if any, parallels in history. If India wishes to be a factor in the Middle East, with its high degree of dependence on oil resources in the region, then it must contend with a foreign policy that desists from choosing Israel over the Palestinians. Nor can India be neutral. India must precondition its relations with Israel with a caveat – that Israel ends its occupation and enlarges its trade relations with India and, indeed, the rest of the world. Sadly, Modi has abandoned a historic policy which served India well for all of 50 years until the Congress opens its doors to the wrong Israel for reasons of duress and opportunism.

Ranjan Solomon

10 September 2017