Covert to overt India-Israel relations
Close cooperation between two countries is likely to catalyse growth in many sectors including defence, agriculture and environment conservation.
It is not only surprising but also shocking to note that some of India’s Opposition leaders protested against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in July for vote-bank politics. They are perhaps not aware that in the wake of the India-China 1962 war, Israel helped the Indian infantry with the most needed 81 mm and 120 mm mortars and Pack Howitzer Artillery Guns, with ammunition. India reciprocated this good gesture by sending spares for Israeli Mystere and Ouragon aircraft and AMX-13 tanks in 1967.
India and Israel forged a close military and security relationship during the 1999 Kargil war with Tel Aviv supplying top of the line Searcher Mark II UAVs to reconnaissance the Pakistani intrusion area in Drass, Kakser and Batalik sectors. Later, Israeli companies armed Indian multi-role fighters like Mirage-2000 with Lightening pods to paint the Pakistani targets for a laser guided bomb attacks.
It also provided Barack surface to air missiles to protect Indian aircraft carrier Viraat.The relationship deepened after Israel quietly landed three C-130 J Hercules load worth of much needed ammunition and missiles in the first week of June 2002 as India was all set to answer for 14 May 2002 massacre of 10 women and 8 children at Kaluchak army camp in Jammu by Pakistani terrorists.
Earlier, the defence arms and equipment used to be supplied by Israel covertly but now with Modi’s visit it has emerged to be overt supplies. Former Chief of the Army Staff Gen VP Malik in a recent article on “Good Jew” has elaborately ex-
plained some of the inputs from Israel.
While welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Tel Aviv, his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, said his country had awaited the visit for “seventy years”. Since the birth of Israel in 1948, Israeli leaders had always sought full diplomatic ties with our country despite India opposed its admission to the UN.
Once the Narasimha Rao government established full diplomatic ties in 1992, Israel pushed for full acknowledgement of bilateral relations on the international stage. As a result, the significance of Modi’s visit to Israel, as the first Indian Prime Minister there, was of great historical significance.
The agreements signed during the visit on defence and national security, water and agriculture, space and science and cyber security and technology are path breaking given that Israel tends to limit cooperation in these areas to only a few countries.
However, the best friendships are judged not just by bilateral bonhomie, but also by the ability to discuss uncomfortable issues. With Modi’s visit India has, for all purposes, de-hyphenated its ties with Israel and Palestine, something Israel has always cherished.
In a clear repudiation of the Indian practice of keeping Palestinian leaders prominently in the loop, Modi made a point not to visit the Occupied Territories.
India’s position on the establishment of the State of Israel was affected by many factors, including India’s own partition on religious lines, and India’s relationship with other nations. Mahatma Gandhi believed the Jews had a good case and a prior claim for Israel, but opposed the creation of Israel on religious or mandated terms.
India voted against the Partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission to the United Nations in 1949. The Hindu nationalist leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar supported the creation of Israel on both moral and political grounds, and condemned India’s vote at the UN against Israel.
RSS leader Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar admired Jewish nationalism and believed Palestine was the natural territory of the Jewish people, essential to their aspiration for nationhood.
On 17 September 1950, India officially recognised the State of Israel. Following India’s recognition of Israel, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru stated, “we would have [recognised Israel] long ago, because Israel is a fact. We refrained because of our desire not to offend the sentiments of our friends in the Arab countries.”
India’s opposition to official diplomatic relations with Israel stemmed from both domestic and foreign considerations. Domestically, politicians in India feared losing the Muslim vote if relations were normalised with Israel. Additionally, India did not want to jeopardise the large number of its citizens working in Arab States of the Persian Gulf, who were helping India maintain its foreign-exchange reserves.
India’s domestic need for energy was another reason for the lack of normalisation of ties with Israel, in terms of safeguarding the flow of oil from Arab nations and India’s desire to counter Pakistan’s influence with the Arab states.
Israel provided India with crucial information during its multiple wars. After decades of non-aligned and pro-Arab policy, India formally established relations with Israel in January 1992 and ties between the two nations have flourished since, primarily due to common strategic interests and security threats.
The formation of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which allegedly neglected the sentiments of Indian Muslims, and the blocking of India by Pakistan from joining the OIC are considered to be the causes of this diplomatic shift.
Relations between the two countries received a boost after the election of the Narendra Modi government in 2014. Following a state visit to India in