Diplomacy has been the masterstroke of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite recent challenges with Nepal and Pakistan. Since May 2014, we have seen Modi's aggressive style of diplomacy with systematic planning and long-term vision. He has executed well-crafted visits to several nations with great enthusiasm, a winning attitude and superb strategies. While Modi is yet to follow through on his promised visit to Israel, India's ties with the country have assumed new dimensions under the stewardship of the Prime Minister, even though this has raised some eyebrows.
Narendra Modi's meeting earlier this month with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu at the international climate summit in Paris caused some commentators to note a shift in Israel's foreign policy. They point out that Israel is likely to bank more heavily on Asia given the strain on its ties with the EU and US. I have been tracking the developments in India-Israel ties with great interest since Modi came to power.
India's long-time membership in the non-aligned movement and its support for Palestine has yielded India precious little, including no support for Kashmir.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interact with eminent pro-Jewish writer Dr Phyllis Chesler. Obviously, the crux of the discussion was India's positive new approach towards Israel, a contrast to the previous Congress-led government, which because of its "secular" credentials, had strong reservations about the "Promised Land".
Dr Chesler, best-selling American author, feminist leader and a professor emerita of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York, envisions an Indo-Israel alignment as part of a new global alliance in which other Asian nations, including China, will band together against jihadist fundamentalism. A recent article in The Times of Israel echoes the same view: "China and India offer Jerusalem vast trade opportunities without the political challenges it faces in parts of Europe."
Dr Chesler, the author of 16 books including the feminist classic Women and Madness (1972), has strong views on anti-Semitism and the demonisation of Israel. She views the approach of Narendra Modi towards Israel very positively.
"Both countries were 'born' in the late 1940s, both countries are modern democracies, and both countries are forced to deal with hostile populations and neighbours. Thus, both countries may have more in common with each other than either country may have with Arab and Muslim states, especially at a time when radically Islamist jihadism has arisen in our world. India's long-time membership in the non-aligned movement and its support for Palestine (which, to date, has always meant the destruction of Israel) has yielded India precious little, including no support for Kashmir," she told this author.
Positive relations between the two countries began in 1950 and full diplomatic relationships were established in 1992. Now, trade has more than doubled between the two countries and Israel has been assisting India in terms of agriculture, water-desalinisation, counter-terrorism, and defence. Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu has told PM Modi that "the sky is the limit" in terms of their potential partnership. Dr Chesler believes that Modi can and will take India-Israel relations to new heights. Note that, for the first time, India abstained from voting on a UN resolution that condemned Israel for possible war crimes in Gaza in June.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Israel in October furthered the relations between the two countries, and in November, Netanyahu announced that he would be visiting India soon. Though dates have not been finalised yet, Modi made it clear he'd soon visit Israel, making him the first Indian PM to do so. "PM Modi's promise to visit Israel very soon is long overdue -- and just on time," Dr Chesler said.
From internal security and defence to agriculture and entrepreneurship, we can benefit a lot from the start-up nation. India appears to have finally read the writing on the wall, and realised that Israel has some excellent credentials that can help the country shape its vision for comprehensive development.
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