As Modi visit approaches, Israel and India seem closer than ever

India went on to fight three further wars against Pakistan, in 1965, 1971 and 1999, while Israel has fought 10 more wars.

By Jonathan Adelman, JPOST

Narendra Modi

As Israel has emerged recently on the world stage, its foreign relationships have blossomed.

US President Donald Trump will be visiting Israel at the end of the month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited Russian President Vladimir Putin five times in less than two years and speaks to him frequently on the phone. Netanyahu recently went on a tour of four African nations. Israel is working closely with Sunni Arab states that share a hatred and fear of Iran.

Yet, while all these are important, there is another event that may be even more important in the long run – the visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel in July. The prime minister is, significantly, visiting only Israel and skipping the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And his visit follows the visit to Israel last January by Indian Foreign Minister Shushma Swaraj.

India and Israel, surprisingly, have much in common. Both became independent of British colonial masters at nearly the same time, India in 1947 and Israel in 1948. Both were initially Third World countries. Their dominant groups – Indian Hindus and Israeli Jews – had to fight bitter wars of independence against Islamic enemies.

India went on to fight three further wars against Pakistan, in 1965, 1971 and 1999, while Israel has fought 10 more wars.

Both countries were founded by English-speaking socialists, Jawaharlal Nehru and David Ben-Gurion. They are the only two of 140 newly independent states since World War II to be democracies from their inception until today. India was the rare country that never practiced antisemitism, and there was no clash between Judaism and Hinduism. Both countries have advanced from a socialist start to greater integration into the world’s global neo-capitalist economy.

Israeli and Indian emigres to the United States do well and often work together. Recent polls show that more Indians (58%) like Israelis than Americans (56%). Both are global minorities that fight to save their homelands in which they have strong majorities (75-85%).

Today they both face threats from their Islamic enemies. India faces Pakistan and its 100 nuclear weapons (and likely more in the future) while Israel faces Iran, which is working on becoming a nuclear power. Both India and Israel have nuclear arsenals. Neither country has ever seen the other as a threat.

The dominant Indian Hindus and Israeli Jews in the two states face significant Muslim minorities at home and practice religions not common in the rest of the world. Their minorities, 150 million Indian Muslims in India and 1.7 million Muslims in Israel, pose major issues for both countries.

Both are creative countries with significant high-tech power (Indian Bangalore and Hyderabad and Israeli Silicon Wadi). Since India recognized Israel in 1992 relations have grown steadily warmer. Today trade between the two is worth $4 billion a year and Israel is a major arms supplier to India.

India’s economy, which is growing over 7% a year, is that of a newly industrializing state with $2.5 trillion GDP. It is the number-six economy in the world, while Israel’s economy is at over $300 billion.

The Indians are interested in possibly creating a $15b. free trade zone with Israel. This would provide India extensive access to one of the world’s top-five high-tech powers, first world economies ($38,000 GNP/capita) and a leader in modern agriculture. For Israel it would create a mass market (1.3 billion people) that little Israel (8.5 million people) lacks. The Economist several years ago proclaimed that India may pass China as the world’s number one economy in several decades.

In the military arena, as the eighth power in the world and possessing highly advanced anti-missile missiles, Israel could be a good counterbalance to hostile Muslim countries.

Back in the 1950s David Ben-Gurion, bemoaning a hostile “inner circle” of countries, proclaimed that the outer circle might support Israel. He named the Shah’s Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia as countries that might support Israel.

Ben-Gurion would be shocked to learn that in the 2010s the Islamic Republic of Iran was Israel’s leading enemy and Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was often hostile.

But he would be thrilled and astounded to learn that a huge country like India might take their place in the outer circle. Only time will tell, but India may well turn out to be one of Israel’s closest friends, bound by common enemies and common aspirations in the 21st century.

The author is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

May 11, 2017 | 3 Comments » | 54 views

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3 Comments / 3 Comments

  1. Jewish women were Indian cinema’s first actresses
    Jewish women were an integral part of early Indian cinema, especially the silent era

    How India’s Jewish Community Transformed Early Bollywood

    SZ: Taking a page out of the analytical method of the academic left, the importance of the Jewish community’s contribution to the cultural life of India can be inferred from the names of two of their most important cities, Deli, and New Deli.

    (Bit of a dated joke: Far as I can tell, pretty much all of the delis in upper Manhattan and Brooklyn and much of New York City, are bodegas/delis that used to be run by Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, and are now run by Yemenite Arabs. In the 80s, they were run by S. Koreans. Still some Korean ones in Midtown Manhattan.) Hotdog/Knish stands are hard to find now. Mostly Halal wagons, and a few Asian or gourmet in some spots.

    Korean Deli scene from “Quick Change” Bill Murray, Geena Davis, Jason Robards
    (1990 B.G (before Giuliani).)

    “Quick Change (1990) – IMDb
    Rating: 6.8/10 – ?16,465 votes
    Comedy · Three thieves successfully rob a New York City bank, but making the escape from the city proves to be almost impossible.”

    “Quick Change – money problem Bill Murray Philip Bosco”

  2. @ Sebastien Zorn:
    Hilarious film making fun of racial stereotypes and role switching.

    The Last Dragon (1985) (B.G.)
    “In New York City, a young [Black] man [whose father owns a pizzeria in Harlem] searches for the “master” [sum dum goy] [in order to] obtain the final level of martial arts mastery known as the glow. Along the way, he must fight a martial arts expert corrupted with power[Sho Nuff, The Shogun of Harlem], and rescue a beautiful singer from an obsessed music promoter.”


    The Last Dragon: Sum Dum Goy Dance

  3. xx

    Althought India is becoming technologialcy advanced, and more importantly seriously appreciates what Israel has to offer, The disparity between rich and poor there is so abysmal that it can’t be described. Beggars could be more affluent than some of the country people, and women are still the last to benefit from the slowly seeping democracy in the country. Cases of suttee still occasionally crop up., although it’s strictly banned by the govt. Yet, is has more resemblance to an Arab milieu, in the allegiance to local family rulers and family feuds, than a determinedly modern-aspiring state should be. It’s just too big for it’s own good. When the British Raj destroyed the local princes and nabobs system of government, they put nothing in their place, except themselves, and then they had to leave in a hurry, with the inevitable disruptions in a country in the throes of a massive Civil War. They are very slowly creeping out of this, but maybe by the end of the 21st century it will settle itself.

    The caste system is still going strong there, a huge drawback.

    And a repeat, there is a massive imbalance and lopsided distribution of wealth, there are the technologial few, and the agrarian masses, some still living in mud huts (like the Arab fellahin) inaccessabble to modern traffic, with a small business sector dividing the two.

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