Two British territories received independence in 1947 – India and Palestine. And in a twin show of pusillanimity, the British carved up both territories before setting them free. One into India and Pakistan and the other into Palestine and Israel.
There the similarities ended. India learnt to live with its broken half (albeit breaking up its neighbor into two in 1971) while Palestine was wholly swallowed up by its doppelganger.
The RSS has always been an admirer of Israel, believing that if only India had acted like the Jewish nation and swallowed its broken part, the dream of Akhand Bharat would have been achieved. Without a chance to rule India, the RSS learnt to live with their dream hoping that one day Delhi would be theirs and they would do to Pakistan what Israel has done to Palestine.
So for Mr Modi, always a RSS man at heart, this trip to Israel is almost a pilgrimage. A chance to be among the people who did everything that his saffron heart aches to do.
But of what use is this trip to India as a nation?
That is a more difficult question. India’s bonhomie with Israel is of recent origin. And strangely, it was the Congress, whose leaders had so passionately backed the Palestine struggle, who opened up relations with the Jewish nation. And when the gates were opened, the relationship took off like a horse granted freedom from the stables. Where once, Israel did not even have an embassy in Delhi, to a position where it not only has an embassy but is also the second largest supplier of military hardware to India, the relationship between the two countries has come a long way. Economically, things could not be better. Israel has developed itself as a technology leader and offers many products, especially in armaments, that could cost vastly more to buy from the West. India has done well to partner Israel for many of its technology requirements.
The problems with Israel start when one goes beyond economics and commerce. Israel is a country that actively practices a form of apartheid that has died out in other parts of the world. It has occupied most of the territories of the Palestine State and there it grossly violates human rights bordering on war crimes. For this, Israel remains a political pariah for many countries. Israel is also a country that does not care for world opinion. And the reason it can act with such impunity is the blind backing it gets from the world’s only superpower – the US. The compulsions the US has in backing Israel are too complicated to go into in this article. Suffice it to say that for the US, backing Israel is in its “national interest” ( a catchall phrase that allows it to act like a James Bond with a license to kill anywhere in the world). A national interest that allows it to back the Israelis, while having military bases on the soil of Israel’s sworn enemies – the Islamic nations of the Gulf.
Does India’s “national interest” require it to have good relations with the Gulf nations while developing economic ties with Israel? The answer is yes. India has an enormous expat population in the Gulf and maintaining cordial relations with those nations is of paramount interest. At the same time the technology that Israel offers is without doubt world class and of essential interest to Indian economic growth, not to mention military superiority. And in any case the Gulf nations are theocratic states with no record of democracy or upholding human rights.
But does India’s “national interest” get served when India lets Israel off the hook in the UN for its serious transgressions? I don’t think so.
The BJP’s soft attitude to Israel is especially troubling and forebodes an admiration beyond commerce. Sample this: When the UNHRC report alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza in 2014 was tabled in 2015, India was one of the only five countries to abstain. Forty one countries voted against Israel (with the US being the only country to vote in Israel’s favour). So much so, that for the first time, Israel thanked India publicly.
Even in normal times Israel should not serve as an example to any other nation especially not to a huge ancient civilizational entity like India. And at a time when the RSS project of monocultural transformation of the country is up and running, a country like Israel is the worst possible role model.
But the Saffron Warrior is going forth on his pilgrimage. And the lessons he will bring back from this trip fill our hearts with apprehension.