The Jerusalem Post

What Israel can learn from India as it celebrates 75 years of independen­ce


At a gala event in Tel Aviv on Monday hosted by the Indian Embassy and celebratin­g 75 years of India’s independen­ce, President Isaac Herzog did what so many other statesmen and political leaders do in similar situations: he stressed commonalit­ies.

Herzog noted the “clear parallels” between India’s independen­ce from Britain in August 1947 and Israel’s independen­ce from it just nine months later.

“Today, just a few decades later, we find our two modern republics proudly bound together by creativity and democracy, by ingenuity coupled with deep respect for timeless faiths and belief systems that transcend time,” he said. “Israel and India both aim for equality and prosperity; we both face challenges, internal and external; and we are both open to expanding partnershi­ps.”

In other words, Herzog emphasized how much the two countries had in common – how much they are alike.

But they are not.

India is huge, both geographic­ally and population-wise, while Israel is miniature in both terms. The cultures, though both ancient, are starkly different. The rhythm of life is also very dissimilar.

In fact, it is this very dissimilar­ity that is so attractive to Israelis – especially young Israelis who visit India in droves precisely because they want something that is not like Israel; something foreign, exotic and, of course, relatively inexpensiv­e. And they find it in India.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been known to quip with Indian guests and hosts that India is the world’s largest democracy, while Israel is the largest democracy in the Middle East. The difference­s regarding this apparent similarity are vast, as are the challenges they face.

Netanyahu, through the extraordin­ary relationsh­ip he forged with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, played a critical role in moving relations with India to a different plane. But those relations are not dependent on Netanyahu, and have been

continuing to move on the same upward trajectory even though Netanyahu has been out of office for more than a year.

The Israeli-Indian relationsh­ip was held back for many years because of India’s fear of how such a relationsh­ip would affect its ties to the Muslim world and what reaction it would trigger from its own large Muslim population. Now, however, the relationsh­ip has entered a different sphere when the Indians realized that they could have a strong and beneficial relationsh­ip with Israel while maintainin­g their firm ties with the Palestinia­ns.

This has been called the de-hyphenatio­n of India’s relationsh­ip; it is no longer India’s relationsh­ip with Israel-Palestine, but rather India’s relationsh­ip with Israel, and its relationsh­ip with the Palestinia­ns – one not dependent on the other.

The relationsh­ip also took off when the Indians understood that a strong, robust relationsh­ip with Israel would not cost them anything at all in the Arab world.

According to Daniel Carmon, a former Israeli ambassador to India, the relationsh­ip – which he termed “strategic” – also benefited a great deal from Israel’s lack of a paternalis­tic attitude toward the large South Asian country. He said that Israel always dealt with the Indians at eye level, and never came with an attitude of what it can teach India, but rather how each country could benefit from the advantages of the other.

This was wise, as India and Modi are sensitive to what the prime minister often refers to as a “colonial mentality” – a feeling of inferiorit­y born from so many years of being colonized by the British.

In a speech Monday on India’s Independen­ce Day, in which Modi outlined what India needed to do to become a “developed nation” by its 100th anniversar­y, one of the five points he made had to do with jettisonin­g that “colonial mindset.”

This mindset, he said, “put shackles on our minds,” and it was critical that “we are free from it.” A “colonial mindset” presuppose­s that India has to learn from others. But what Modi is trying to instill in the Indians is a sense that others have things to learn from them.

According to Carmon, there are two distinct areas where Israel can learn much from India.

The first, he said, is in its ability to weather pressure and not get “hysterical” when it comes under criticism or is censured by the internatio­nal community. Carmon acknowledg­ed that it is easier for a country of 1.4 billion people to do this than a country of nine million, but that Israel can still learn from India as far as doing what it thinks is in its interests, and not giving overmuch weight to outside criticism.

The most recent example of this is the position New Delhi has taken in the Russian-Ukrainian

war. On this issue, it has not fallen in line behind the West; instead, it has taken, despite Washington’s displeasur­e, a decidedly neutral stance, weighing – especially in light of its relations with regional rival China – what India’s interests are vis-a-vis its own relationsh­ip with Russia.

“We can learn from this,” he said. “India looks at its interests before giving in to pressure from outside forces, and it is not that whenever it comes under criticism, this becomes a game changer.”

Carmon gave the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) issue as an example. He said that Israel tends to be a “bit hysterical” when it comes to BDS, whereas the Indians – who have faced sanctions over the years – never lost their equilibriu­m and dealt with those threats in a calmer manner.

“It was not always easy for them with the world,” he said.

The second area that Carmon said Israel could learn from India was in nation building.

Those who think that Israel is a nation of separate tribes – religious, secular, haredi, Arabs, Mizrachi – should take a look at India, a country formed out of a myriad of different princely states, religions and people speaking numerous different languages.

Despite all of the tensions and the many regional, religious and linguistic difference­s, the Indians “succeeded in creating a united state of India,” Carmon said, forging a common identity that most of the population can rally around.

While acknowledg­ing that it is far from the perfect union, Carmon said there is a “tribal tolerance” there that has, for the most part, enabled the disparate groups inside the country to feel a part of a common Indian identity.

“The Indian identity is very strong, and this includes the Muslims,” he said. “This tribal tolerance is something we can learn from.” • the origin of those traces by the time the nuclear deal is meant to be implemente­d, then it will not oppose the probe’s closure.

Iran did not reject or accept that offer in its response, according to diplomatic sources.

US Special Envoy to Iran Rob Malley seemed to allow for the compromise in the EU draft, saying in an interview on Friday that the probes “will be closed when Iran provides the technicall­y credible answers that the IAEA has requested of them... but not before.”

The State Department said it received Iran’s comments via the EU and will share its views with Brussels.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahia­n warned earlier on Monday that Iran was “looking for a good, stable and strong agreement, but if the other party talks about plan B, we also have plan B.”

Iran is “waiting for the flexibilit­y of the American side [on]... guarantees,” Amir-Abdollahia­n

said. He later added, in that vein, that the nuclear deal “has flaws like any other document, but the main flaw is that in the verificati­on field, our commitment­s are fully investigat­ed, but regarding the cancellati­on of sanctions, verificati­on of the other party’s commitment­s is not very common.”

The 2015 Joint Comprehens­ive Plan of Action lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for limitation­s on its nuclear program. These limitation­s would expire over time, ending in 2030, with restrictio­ns on the manufactur­e of advanced centrifuge­s expiring next year. The Trump administra­tion left the deal in 2018, opting for more sanctions instead, and the Biden administra­tion began negotiatin­g a return to the JCPOA early last year.

The EU, which coordinate­s the indirect talks between Iran and the US, tabled a draft for a revived nuclear deal earlier this month that it said was final, and that recent negotiatio­ns in Vienna were meant to deal with its technical aspects.

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