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Hyper-nationalism and arms deals: A new chapter in Israel-India ties

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first official visit to Israel comes at a time of both rising economic cooperation growing nationalism in both countries.  

By Inbal Ben Yehuda

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, November 30, 2015. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, November 30, 2015. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived for a three-day visit in Israel on Tuesday. Alongside meetings with government officials, Modi will travel across the country and will meet with leading Israeli and Indian businesspeople. In addition, Israel’s Indian community will host the prime minister for a festive event, which will include Israeli Jews of Indian origin. This is the first time India’s prime minister has ever visited Israel, marking 25 years since the two countries formally established diplomatic ties, which began in 1992.

Although India formally recognized the State of Israel in 1950, it took another 42 years until it established diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, due to its historic support for the Palestinian cause. Over the years, India attempted to create a balance between its ties with Israel and the Palestinians, although it seems that the current visit symbolizes a change in this tendency.

As opposed to other Indian leaders who visited the region, Modi will not meet with officials from the Palestinian Authority. In order to keep some semblance of balance, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was invited to India this past May for a four-day visit. In the run-up to that visit, India’s foreign minister emphasized the close historic ties between India and Palestine, and said that “apart from our political support for the Palestinian cause, India continues to support development plans in Palestine by extending technical and financial assistance.”

On the other hand, diplomats and media outlets have pointed out that New Delhi has shed its hesitation in acknowledging deepening ties with Jerusalem, and that Modi’s diplomacy vis-a-vis the Palestinians pales in comparison to his current visit to Israel. According to Asaduddin Owaisi, a member of India’s federal parliament from a regional group that promotes Muslim rights, “Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel will only strengthen its occupation of Palestine.”

Arms deals and hypernationalism

The intensive preparations for Modi’s arrival were a testament to the fact that Modi’s visit is the most important this year following that of President Trump. So important, in fact, that Modi will be staying in a luxury suite in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, the same one Trump stayed in during his visit. Modi’s reception, which has been in the planning for months, will be accompanied by much pomp and circumstance. A red carpet will be rolled out in his honor, and among his greeters will be Michael (Mikey) Federmann, the head of the Dan Hotels group, which owns the King David Hotel.

Federmann is also the chairman of Elbit System, an Israel-based arms and aerospace manufacturer, which has signed major deals with the Indian government. Thus Elbit in now part of a group of Israeli arms exporters that have a role in Modi’s plan to modernize the Indian Army. The plan, which has included over $100 billion of investments on the part of both Russia and the United States, is meant to strengthen India’s abilities and positioning vis-a-vis Pakistan and China.

Among the stated goals of Modi’s visit is strengthening and promoting the existing cooperation between the two states, with an emphasis on Israeli technological exports that will assist the Indians in water infrastructure, agriculture, and space exploration, as well as expanding economic, scientific, and academic cooperation. Above all, however, much of the agreements that have been signed between the two countries over the past few years, and especially in the last months, largely deal with security. India is the largest market for Israel’s security industry, with the former purchasing weapons and technology to the tune of an average $1 billion a year.

India’s status as a rising world power makes it an important partner for Israel to strengthen its economy, while at the same time Israel invests in India and hopes to continue benefitting from the ongoing cooperation between the two countries. But it seems that more than ever, Modi’s nationalist and right-wing ideology has bolstered India as a decisive factor on the diplomatic stage in the eyes of Israel — a place where the Jewish state is no longer so popular with the West. Modi’s attitude toward the Muslim population of India, the largest religious minority in the country, certainly fits with the guiding principles of Israel’s right-wing government.

Inbal Ben Yehuda is a blogger for Local Call and a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking.This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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    1. Grandpa Frost

      Jews and Hindus don’t want to be killed by those who consider murder to be their religious obligation. That’s why Israel and India cooperating in dealing with the problem. Can you imagine anything more racist, sexist and homophobic than that???

      Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          It is not our problem if India has problems with Muslims. We receive here a good and powerful partner and and we are going to do business with him. Advice coming from abroad do not count.

          Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Gramps: “How Oppressed Are Muslims in India?” http://herald.dawn.com/news/1153473

        “The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its partner organisations in the Hindu right have started a concerted campaign against all religious minorities, including Muslims. The main features of this campaign include protests against the so-called ‘love jihad’ – Muslim men allegedly converting Hindu women to Islam by trapping them in love affairs – and ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming) initiatives which convert Muslims and Christians ‘back’ to Hinduism. Moves towards Hinduisation have also been taking place across India.”

        Sound familiar?

        Reply to Comment
        • Grandpa Frost

          Nothing you guys have said above detracts from the point that I’ve made. Muslims have slaughtered up to 80 million Hindus over a 1000 years. While, I don’t defend every single action the Hindus have taken in their DEFENSIVE war, and they may not be as gentle on the Muslims as the Israelis are, it doesn’t mean that the Hindus don’t have the right to defend themselves.

          Bruce, it does sound familiar because the methods of terrorism that have been employed against the Jews can be quite similar to the ones employed against Hindus and other non-Muslims. For a European example of “love jihad” look up the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I like the way he sneaks in “1000 years.” It would be as if Jews justified killing 21st Century citizens of Spain because of the 13th-17th century Inquisition. I also like the Regavim-like reversal of reality technique: “gentle on the Muslims as the Israelis are.” Wow.

            And as if Indian Hindu men had ever had a record of treating women kindly or with justice. Nothing could expose the opportunism and Muslim-bashing dishonesty of someone like ‘Grandpa Frost’ than to point out how the absolutely awful record of India with respect to women crosses all Hindu-Muslim sectarian lines. The Indian and Pakistani treatment of women is awful. Horrifying. And it has nothing to do with whether those Indians or Pakistanis are Hindu or Muslim. Frost’s opportunism stands exposed.

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            The historical mass persecution and massacre of Hindus by Muslims certainly undercuts the claim by Muslim and pro-Muslim apologists like Obama that Islam is always a ‘religion of peace’ and is the very exemplar of ‘tolerance’.

            Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          Your claim that Muslims “allegedly” trap Hindu women in love affairs is not a myth. It is an old story throughout the Muslim world. Mohandis Gandhi addressed the issue in his time. You see, Islam, unlike Judaism or Hinduism is a very aggressive missionary religion and it is viewed as a religious obligation to push it on non-Muslims. Grabbing dhimmi women and seducing them or forcing them into the arms of Muslim men is a meritorious act because it removes fertile women from the dhimmi community, with the goal of weakening them vis-a-vis the Muslims. When Jews and Hindus take DEFENSIVE measures to try to preserve their unique existence and status, the “progressives” call it racism. Well, I think having one group call itself the master race or religion who has the innate right to rule the world and subjugate everyone else is most certainly racism.

          Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      India certainly is a living reproach to the Arab Middle East. The Arabs are constantly harping on the fact that they were subject to Europeans colonialism for periods ranging form 25 to 70 years and saying this is the reason they are so behind the West economically and socially. India was under British colonial rule for more than 200 years, but instead of whining about past history and nursing endless grudges as the Arabs do, they rolled up their sleeves, built a functioning democracy and have one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Ike produces a page of strawmen and implicitly endorses a Gopsteinist/Lehavaist worldview, and lots of historical distortions to justify Hindu nationalist domination and slaughter of Indian Muslims — gee, I wonder why — and then marvels at what the Indians did when the British lifted their jackboot but he’s nowhere near ready to similarly lift the Israeli jackboot. He certainly likes British jackboot lifting (and Hindu jackboot lowering) but Jewish jackboot lifting not so much.

      Reply to Comment
    4. john

      no religion deserves a country.

      Reply to Comment