By enveloping each other in hugs, flying kites and holding road shows, the Indian and Israeli prime ministers have been repeatedly sending a strong message over the six-day period: that the time has come for unstinting cooperation between both the nations.
By extending the travel schedules and expressing fondness for each other through outward formalities breaking protocol, Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu shattered not only the boundaries of usual diplomacy but also the fundamental principles of ties between the nations. It is true that bilateral agreements have evolved from the discussions between India and Israel. Both the nations have decided to collaborate in several sectors such as military cooperation, cyber security, oil and energy and film production. This closeness is also described as marking the 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. The paradox of those who follow the ideologies of warmongering and racism, attempting to ‘own’ Gandhiji and praising those who carry out regressive politics as a ‘revolutionary’, may be seen as the usual diplomatic affectation. However, one could not lose sight of the widespread protests carried out by human rights activists and organisations, students and political outfits against Israel’s prime minister. Netanyahu’s India visit cannot be evaluated without asking whether India’s actual stance consists in the Prime Minister’s overarching love for Israel or by the principle-based contentions of the protesters.
The fundamental question is what should be the basis of India’s stance. In Netanyahu’s own words, the strengths of Israel are in this order of priority: military power, economic power, political power and democracy. India where ‘ahimsa’ is the national ideology, came into being and continued to exist by rejecting the prominence of weapon power. It is the same ideological courage that helped Mahatma Gandhi to reject Israel and back Palestine. However, the crucial ‘revolution’ that has been taking place in Narendra Modi’s rule is that opportunism and vested interests have come to form the basis of foreign policy. The ones whom Netanyahu now calls terrorists are those who were freedom fighters in Gandhiji's eyes. It is not that Modi is unaware of this fact. It has been made clear from their remarks many a time that hysteria of frenzied nationalism is the common factor binding them. Although India voted against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the UN General Assembly, there are also visible signs of withdrawal from the pro-Palestine positions India has been showing all through.
It can be easily seen that the transition from having a stance to no stance at all and then to an opposite stance is against the ideologies of India and favours the interests of Israel. On the issue of Palestinian state, beyond the ceremonial statement that the peace talks should be continued in the matter, there was not even a hint in the joint statementsabout a separate state for Palestine. Vijay Gokhale, the Foreign Secretary explained that India-Israel relation is not based on just one theme. When the Palestinian issue thus became just one among several themes, and when humanitarian issues ceased to be a concern beside economic-military interests, that tantamounted to a conceptual acquiescence to Israel.
Indian leaders have also given the counsel that when efforts are made for gains in the economic domain, we should not put hurdles in the name of principles. To what extent is this correct? Are our economic interests well safeguarded? The contract with the Israeli weapons manufacturer Rafael is a case in point. We have suspended that contract because India can produce the missiles by itself as part of 'Make in India' plan. It is not only because indigenous manufacture will fetch us economic benefit, but also because it is in line with the stance of the military that in the field of arms manufacture, foreign dependence has to be avoided as far as possible. But close on the heels of the cancellation of the previous contract, Israeli industrialists came out with warnings of 'consequences'. Not only that, the Israeli media decided in advance that the deal would be signed for sure. But this prop India extends to the ailing arms industry of Israel, will in fact be at the cost of our own defence organization, DRDO. Relations with Israel is not beneficial to us, not only on idealistic grounds, but even from an economic perspective.