Modi In Israel: A Pernicious Alliance
NEW DELHI: V. D. Savarkar, the originator of the concept of Hindutva, would have been a very satisfied man, if he were alive today. He had exhorted Bharat, in 1952, to emulate Israel. Sixty five years later, his loyal disciple, Narendra Modi, became the first ever Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. He totally identified India with Israel; “India for Israel" (I4I) is what Modi proudly proclaimed in Tel Aviv.
The visit was more than symbolic. It was also significant for the reason that Modi did not go to Ramallah and meet the Palestinian leadership. Even US President Donald Trump did so when he visited Israel, a few weeks ago in May.
Modi’s trip to Israel marks the culmination of a shift in foreign policy which has developed over the years – the forging of a strategic alliance with Israel and the steady downgrading of India’s commitment to the Palestinian cause. The "strategic partnership" announced in the joint statement is the open declaration of this alliance which was kept under wraps so far.
At the heart of the strategic alliance is a military and security collaboration with Israel which reinforces the colonial occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. It is also an alliance which helps the Israeli role of being an instrument of US imperialism in the region. Modi’s visit has occurred on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Since then, the security and defence collaboration with Israel has developed steadily under successive governments. But it is during the BJP-led governments that the alliance with Israel has got deepened and given an ideological construct.
Since the mid-nineties, Israel has become a prominent supplier of arms and defence equipments to India. In the last decade, Israel emerged as the largest seller of arms to India till that position was taken over by the United States. In April 2017, India had contracted to buy 2.6 billion dollars worth of short range and long range Barak-8 missiles from the IsraeliAerospace Industries. The buying of surveillance drones are in the pipeline. India had launched Israeli spy satellites through ISRO rockets. Israeli security experts have been advising India on internal security measures.
The Hindutva outlook of the BJP has close affinity with the ethno-nationalist stream of Zionism. The rightwing ruling Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are ideological soul-mates of the BJP and Narendra Modi. The RSS and the BJP admire Israel for the way it has suppressed the Palestinian people and taken on the Arab countries. It is their anti-Muslim bias that makes them want to emulate Israel.
It was during the Vajpayee government’s tenure that the security ties with Israel deepened. L. K. Advani, as Home Minister, visited Israel in 2000 to develop intelligence and security relations. The hawkish Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India in 2003 to strengthen military and counter-terrorism relations.
The Modi government has undermined India’s long held principle of support to the national liberation struggle of the Palestinian people. Modi pointedly avoided talking about the Palestinian demands for statehood in his speeches and statements in Israel.
The joint statement issued by Modi and Netanyahu refers to the “Israel-Palestine” peace process without any mention of the two-state solution. It confined itself to stating “the need for the establishment of a just durable peace in the region. Even the reference to an early negotiated settlement is set in Israeli terms as “based on mutual recognition and security arrangements”. The Israeli government has made it clear that in any Palestinian entity, there should be Israeli “security control”, which means simply there can be no independentstate with national sovereignty. Modi has endorsed these terms for negotiations.
Modi has praised the democratic system of Israel. What prevails in Israel is a travesty of democracy. The 1.7 million Arabs living within the original boundaries of the Israeli state and who constitute 21 per cent of population have become second class citizens; they face the prospect of their status being further downgraded when Israel is formally declared a Jewish State.
For the 4.6 million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, the reality is of an apartheid State. Their lands are stolen, Jewish settlements dot the West Bank appropriating the best lands and resources; a 8 meter high wall has cut off urban Palestinian settlements from their own lands; Gaza is under perpetual siege with its people even deprived of electricity. The reality is that Israel has perpetuated a brutal colonial occupation for 50 years since the 1967 war.
In the joint statement, both sides resolved to combat terrorism in all its forms. However, for the Israelis, it is the Palestinian organisations fighting the occupation and the Hezbollah in Lebanon who fought the Israeli invasion, who are terrorists. For Modi, the way the Israelis are tackling the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank and Gaza, can be emulated in Kashmir. Already the tying up of a young man in front of an army jeep, as a human shield in the valley, was an imitation of the Israeli Army tactics in the West Bank.
Among the seven agreements signed during the visit, one is on water management. Much has been made about Israel’s vaunted ability in developing solutions to water scarcity and judicious use of scarce water resources. This has been widely propagated through the mainstream media in India. What is covered up is the theft of water resources of the occupied West Bank and Gaza. For instance, Israel controls the Mountain Aquifer, 80 per cent of which lies beneath the West Bank and it over-extracts this water for agriculture as well as for use in illegal settlements. Israel’s daily per capita consumption of water is five times that of the Palestinians.
Under the Israeli occupation, the people in the West Bank and Gaza have access to less than 20 per cent of their water resources. Gaza is being deprived of electricity by the Israeli government. All this is enforced by the military might of Israel. India is one of the biggest sources of sustenance for the Israeli armed forces and the defence industry by buying billions of dollars worth of arms. That is why, the Left in India, has been demanding an end to the military and security relationship with Israel.
The strategic alliance with Israel is part of the rightwing foreign policy shift under the Modi government. The abandonment of a non-aligned, independent foreign policy, the turning back on the commitment to the cause of the Palestinian people and the pursuit of the Hindutva ideal of a US-Israel-India axis – all reflect the change in the domestic correlation of forces and the rightwing shift within India.
Thus the fight to change the pro-imperialist and regressive foreign policy has to be part of the fight against the Hindutva forces who are in power in India. They are both pro-imperialist and proponents of an exclusivist Hindu nationalism which is inimical for democracy and national sovereignty.
(Prakash Karat is a senior leader of the CPI(M), former general secretary of the party)