India’s rapprochement with Israel partly due to disorder in the Arab world

Huda al-Husseini
Huda al-Husseini
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On July 4, 2014, al-Baghdadi made his only appearance to the world from the historic Nuri Mosque in Mosul. He urged Muslims around the world to obey him as their leader!

Three years later on July 4, 2017, Baghdadi’s forces were fighting his last battle in Mosul before being cornered and rounded up.

On that day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and told him: “We have waited a long time for this visit, 70 years”. Modi did not hesitate to ‘hug’ Netanyahu, calling him: “My friend.” The two leaders committed themselves to “vibrant Indian-Israeli relations.”

Due to everything that has happened and is still happening in the Arab countries, this visit showcased a sharp turn in India’s approach, which was formerly against Israel in the international arena.

The former approach was a tactic aimed at gaining the sympathy of the large Muslim minority in India, the Arab countries and the entire Non-Aligned Movement. However, behind the scenes, the relations between India and Israel were moving forward and got closer and more intimate, but New Delhi preferred to deny these facts when necessary because it knew that these ties will be very costly, so both countries decided to remain discreet.

When Modi became prime minister, the prospects for the drastic diplomatic shift were clear. Months before becoming Prime Minister, an Indian journalist described him as “Israel’s best friend in South Asia.”

These feelings were shared by most of the leaders of the right-wing Hindu Party (BJP) ever since Modi became the Chief Minister of the economically vibrant Gujarat state. Growth in that state has been linked to strong ties with Israel.

Each year, thousands of farmers travel to Israel to learn new technologies. Israel has established three vital educational facilities called ‘Centers of Excellence’ in Gujarat. It seems that Modi wants to repeat the experience of Gujarat at a national level.

The two countries have consistently shared important features. They consider that they are islands of democracy in a sea of dictatorships, each of which emerged after the division of territories ruled by the British Empire, and each considering itself as a national state of ancient peoples.

Modi is governing a country with a 15 percent Muslim population compared to the proportion of Palestinian Muslims living in Israel, each of which considers itself living a regional conflict and sharing strategic, ideological and economic interests.

Modi is known for being a semi-continent leader who is taking bold but calculated steps. He tried to end corruption and theft by the decision to demonetize Indian currency. No one could have imagined it. Now his bold and successful visit to Israel could encourage other countries to improve relations with Israel publicly.

Huda al-Husseini

Diplomatic relations between the two countries began in 1992, but prospered when the BJP took office in 1998. When India and Pakistan clashed in 1999 in the so-called ‘Kargil War’, Israel provided India with secret satellite images and equipment with superior technology. In 2003, Ariel Sharon, then Israeli prime minister, visited India and the relations prospered at all levels and trade doubled from $200 million per year to at least $5 billion now.

However, the strength and consolidation of the relations were clearer with Modi in Gujarat, where Israeli investors deployed billions of dollars to expand the areas of cooperation. Modi’s controversial stance during the 2002 riots against Gujarat Muslims isolated him on the international arena, but was welcomed in Israel. Gujarat played a unique role in the bilateral relations, in which Israeli technology has developed ways to maximize agricultural production and other sectors.

Homage to fallen Indian soldiers

Before Modi left Israel, he and Netanyahu visited the Haifa cemetery, where Indian soldiers who were killed during the liberation of the Palestinian city were buried during the First World War. The prime ministers also stopped at the beach to watch water desalination technology display. India hopes that Israel as a pioneer in water management technologies, will help improve access to water for India’s drier regions.

Since Israel was established, its leaders have been developing what they see as a natural alliance, this was not possible until the regional scene changed.

India’s growing rapprochement with Israel was partly due to disorder in the Arab world, which in fact distorted the perception of a cohesive bloc practising power, political and economic influence. It is true that this is the first visit of an Indian prime minister to Israel, but it is the culmination of a long process and effort. It confirms a series of geopolitical trends that have reshaped the Middle East, making it an unrecognizable area for nearly 10 years now, and is sure to be on the verge of more far-reaching changes in the future.

On his visit to Israel, Modi gave crucial indicators of the regional transformation.

No visit to Ramallah

He did not visit Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority, although New Delhi warmly welcomed Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. This deliberate negligence shows that Modi did not find it necessary to offer a symbolic initiative to the Palestinians equivalent to his embrace of Israel.

The decision of ignoring Ramallah shows that India has come to view Israel through a very different perspective - wider and far more focused than limited to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It was remarkable that Modi made an unannounced visit to the tomb of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionist movement. Another proof of this behavior is that the multiple wars that have ravaged the Middle East have brought down the Palestinian cause from the list of priorities of the Arab countries.

Indeed, there are growing evidences that the Iranian interference in the affairs of the Arab states, along with Hamas, is pushing some countries to look at Israel in a context far removed from the Palestinian cause, which increased by the internal Palestinian conflict.

There is a cry that the Arab ship is sinking, and it is time to ring all the bells of warning and danger. We are approaching the bottom.

Turning point

Modi’s visit to Israel with its content and its vitality, constitutes a major turning point in global diplomacy.

Israel will certainly continue to sell military equipment to India, where competition is growing with Pakistan. Recently, India signed a $2 billion missile defense deal with Israel. India is likely to develop closer intelligence relations with Israel focusing on counter-terrorism.

What should be observed is India’s voting options in international forums on resolutions condemning Israel. The Non-Aligned Movement has faded away, but India remains a major power that supports a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

Modi is known for being a sub-continent leader who is taking bold but calculated steps. He tried to end corruption and theft by the decision to demonetize Indian currency. No one could have imagined it. Now his bold and successful visit to Israel could encourage other countries to improve relations with Israel publicly.

If countries do not seek stability, economic prosperity, technological progress, trade, and job opportunities, their own people along with others will destroy and waste it. You do not have to look for this in Israel. What is important is to find and apply it.

The Arab people have nothing to lose. Soon, ISIS will be defeated, and Iran will soon have to stop intimidating the Takfirists, and look after its own people, letting the Arab people live for their future. These people have had enough faith, glories, and defeats.

This article is also published in Arabic.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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