With the recent visit of Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu to India, the Internet Hindus (the so called group which claims to be the custodians of Hindutva) were very happy because they are in Love with Israel. Hindu nationalists constantly tweet their support and appreciation for Israel. This is the same online force that campaigned for Modi to a landslide victory in 2014. On the other hand, the minorities of this country, was protesting against his arrival. May be because, they are ardently supporting Palestine. Since the early days of the Palestinian conflict, the Muslims in India have been sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinian counterparts. Mahatma Gandhi too made a statement that Germany is for Germans, France is for French, Britain is for British, and similarly, Palestine is for Palestinians. If we see the attachment that Indian Muslims feel towards the Palestinian people is natural since Israel occupied Jerusalem houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
India is not a player in the Middle East, apart from being a big importer of Saudi and Iranian oil, and Israel is definitely not one in the subcontinent. India’s trade with Israel is not only trifling, it’s been lessening. The sum totals of Indian investments in Israel are the equivalent of a single moderately sized fundraising round by a start-up. Modi has no Jewish voters back at home to impress with a photo-op with Benjamin. Like China, India looks at the Jewish state as a valuable partner because of the technology and innovation it can provide. And that is part of a larger phenomenon of brainpower is emerging an important asset in world power politics, taking its place beside naked armed force, economics and the soft power of culture and values.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet called Netanyahu’s visit to India is, “historic and special,” aimed to “cement” close friendship between the two nations. This is the second time an Israeli Prime Minister is visiting India. The first trip by Ariel Sharon took place in 2003. The visits of both prime ministers took place at a time when right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power. But this time there were the typical visits to the Taj Mahal, to Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram and to his memorial. There was the opening of a Technology Centre followed by meeting with business leaders. During the trip, Netanyahu visited various Indian cities, including Agra in Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai in Maharashtra but Gujarat grabbed headlines. Modi has his way of treating foreign representatives, ever since he became Prime Minister — he invites foreign delegates to Gujarat first and then the rest of the places in India. India and Israel signed numbers of deals in various sectors, including defence, oil and gas, renewable energy, amended protocol for airports, cyber-security, and co-production of films and documentaries.
Modi has become the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. However, despite the country’s growing relationship with Israel, on December 21, India voted in favour of UN General Assembly resolution rejecting US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. The US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel had evoked a sharp reaction from Indian Muslims and other social groups. More than 10 million protestors marched at over a thousand locations across the country on December 22.
The latest visit of the Israeli leader is also mired into controversies with Indian Muslim organisations, human right groups, university students and several political parties holding demonstrations against Netanyahu. Some believe that PM Modi is getting close to all those foreign heads those who are anti-Islamic or anti-Muslims to create pressure on Pakistan. India’s first problem is national security and its cold war with Pakistan, and for years Israel and India have had close defence ties. But these are based on technology, not raw power or other factors. Israel doesn’t sell tanks and planes, but provides advice on counter-terrorism and most importantly, it has been selling India high-tech weaponry.
Now, the relationship is focusing progressively on the civilian side. The cabinet this week approved a series of measures and a 280 million shekel ($80 million) budget for joint research and development mainly in water and agricultural technology programs. It also talked about increasing exports by 25 per cent and luring more Indian tourists and even Bollywood producers to Israel, but that is a small change compared to the tech relationship. Tech is the basis of our beautiful friendship.
India is behind in China in terms of its global aspiration, but Modi is a free market, tech-friendly leader as much as he is a Hindu nationalist and he wants to see India become a world economic superpower.
I understand it is necessary to express solidarity with the people of Palestine but to protest against the visit of a Prime Minister of a country whose hands are alleged to be stained with the blood of innocent Palestinians is not a wise thought. Somewhere we have to open our avenues for start ups and towards progress. When Modi visited US, there were group of people who protested his visit, but that did not stop him visiting Trump or Obama.
In 2015, Netanyahu had said on the record that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch. Israel denies any option of a peaceful settlement to the Palestinians. It is the biggest impediment to the peace process. But even though if Israel is violating international law by inflicting atrocities on Palestinians and establishing illegal settlements in West Bank, the world has to stand unitedly against it, not just the Indian minorities. Amid of all this protest and attacks, he came to India, greeted people, signed deals, and went back. Was there any meaning to the protest called for? Is there anyone who will really listen to these voices? Or with present scenario these voices will remain only in protests but nothing will change? India is a nation of all and if a guest is arriving here, we should stand by our ethics and welcome them unitedly.
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