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                                        Interview with Mr. SHASHANK 

‘Why should Pakistan get irritated with India-Israel co-operation?”


Former Foreign Secretary of India

                                                                                                               Currently,Visiting  Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University,New Delhi

Foreign Secretary (1st December, 2003 to 31st July, 2004)  
Ambassador of India to Copenhagen, Denmark (March 1999 – May 2001);Ambassador of India to Seoul, Republic of Korea (Nov. 1994 – January 1999);Ambassador of India to Tripoli, Libya and concurrent accreditation as High Commissioner of India to Malta (May 1991 – October 1994) ;Minister (Political) and Deputy High Commissioner of India in Islamabad, Pakistan (September 1982 – March 1986) ;Posted at the Indian Mission in New York. (Jan 1974 – July 1978)Held senior positions in the Indian Missions in Brussels, Hanoi & Cairo.

At present Mr Shashank is associated with many National & International forums & is holding the following positions :

He is a Commentator on International Affairs 
President- Indian Council for International Cooperation ( ARSP)  
Patron- India - Russia Chamber of Commerce 
President- India - South Korea Friendship Society )



Text of the Interview

1.Has India's position on Palestine undergone a change in the wake of growing India-Israel relationship ?

Well, we have to keep in mind that India-Israel had recognized each other for a long time but there was no diplomatic relation for a long time, so there was plenty of catching up to be done.  So the growing India-Israel relationship has been there, but they should not have a change in our dialogue or our relationship with Palestine and I do not think that there is a change.  We have a representative in the Palestinian territories and now that we are also member of the UN Security Council, our views are welcome by all the Arab counties and the Israelis also. So, therefore, what I can say  is that India’s position perhaps has become a little bit more normal because now we are able to interact with the Palestinians, with the Arab countries as well as Israel. 

2. India's historically hostile relations with Pakistan are often cited as a key reason for the India-Israel defence and intelligence link.

So there are two aspects you are referring to- one is the defense link and the other is intelligence link.


Now, I would not know about the intelligence link so much because many countries have intelligence links. And it is quite likely that Pakistan may also have intelligence links  with Israel. So, therefore, I do not know much about this part and we should leave it as it is. 

As far as the defense links are concerned, India has tried to buildup its defense capabilities because India wants to be a peaceful neighbor to all its neighboring countries, but at the same time India does not want to come under pressure whether from Pakistan’s side, whether from Chinese side or any side.  Therefore, India has to buildup its defense capabilities and it has found that if Israel can be a good partner like any other country they can be a good partner, so why not.  Why not build a relationship?  It is a different matter that I believe that India-Israel defense relationship has moved very rapidly because there are many technologies in which India is interested in and Israel is waiting to supply them under the Indian overall policies. Therefore, the policy framework of India and the availability from the Israel side if they are suitable, so I do not see why India should not get them.

The question is why should Pakistan  get irritated about India’s defense cooperation with Israel ?

Okay! This is the other part that why should Pakistan get irritated.


But the point is that at one time, if you remember, a few years ago Pakistan was trying very hard to workout domestic consensus in order to have normal diplomatic relations with Israel. And close relations with Israel. And it was stated at that time by Pakistani media that we already have some kind of classified or secret relationship, back-channel relation with Israel but now they wanted to bring it into open. And since there was no consensus on this and it was a military government at that time, therefore, they decided to leave it to the future and it got enmeshed more with the domestic politics of Pakistan than anything else.

So, therefore, if Pakistan gets irritated with India, I do not think it is because of India-Israel relations.  It is because Pakistan wants to keep India under pressure.  So, either it is due to because the public statement which it may be or it may try to buy more weapons, more sophisticated weapons from America, from China, from wherever they can get it, so that they tried to get and they have been getting these weapons.  As a matter of fact, I would say that not just buying them, sometimes they are getting them from the inventories of the others under the status which they have as all-weather friends of China and the major non-NATO ally of the United States.  So they have direct access to the US army’s equipment available to them because they are that kind of major ally of the Americans in their wars against terrorists and various other kinds of wars which they may be fighting.

The other thing remains that they are also able to get these transfers of second-hand weapons from other countries, we have seen that.  So therefore, Pakistan also is going all out to strengthen its defense link, and we should not mind if they are improving so long as it does not have an impact on our own relationship and they are not trying to promote the terrorist activities in India.

So they must give that space to India also.

So they should give that space to us, I agree with you and at the same time India has always taken into view that India is a peaceful country.  India wants to sort out all its issues with Pakistan and other countries with peaceful dialogues, negotiations.

3. In the ensuing "war on terror", in the wake of Mumbai 26/11 attacks , could the security relationship between India and Israel develop into a strategic alliance? 

The problem is that this strategic alliance or strategic partnership itself is a term which has not been defined very precisely.  The communist countries have a different kind of connotation of strategic partnership or strategic alliance.

Now, what India is trying to buildup is a partnership with several countries.  It has in fact started a dialogue even with China.   Because there may be many issues on which they have common views, let’s say against terrorists,against pirates, keeping the sea lanes secure.

So, therefore those issues where we have several relationships, we can have partnerships or dialogues with any country even with Pakistan. We can try to have a dialogue with them so long as they do not try to destabilize any part of India and they do not promote terrorism from any part under their administrative control against India. It is something  they have been professing, but they have not been able to fulfill it. So what India is saying is that if you match your words with deeds then we are quite prepared to move ahead with you. 

So, if you are trying to buy some weapons, technical equipment from Israel to take care of terrorist activities in India or infiltration by terrorists or by all kinds of hostile forces from across the border then these are for our own safety, security.  These are not part of building up a wider strategic alliance which may be against third countries with whom we do not have any kind of enmity and then we have good relations with them. This is mainly for increasing our own strength, increasing our own defense capabilities and that I think this has to be understood in that context only.

4.Do you agree that evolving India-Israel relationship could damage India's relationship with countries such as Iran and Syria, with whom India has friendly relations but Israel does not? 

Well, I hope we do not do that because these are important relations that we have with Iran and Syria. Already we are under pressure sometimes because of the international sanctions against some of these countries.

And as member of the UN and as having friendly relations with these countries we have to make sure that our international obligations or sanctions which have been imposed upon them through international decisions,  do not hurt our bilateral relations.  It is a delicate exercise but Syria and Iran also have to understand that we have to abide by our international commitments.  At the same time, the international community has to understand that we have a relationship of energy security in which we have to buildup these ties with these countries. 

Because of the nuclear capabilities being developed in Iran, it has become a little bit more difficult because we had taken certain views in IAEA Governing Body and also in the UN Security Council as for international commitments.  But at the same time we are trying to see whether our other relationships with Iran get protected from these sanctions, etc. which have been imposed on the nuclear site.

5. A growing Indo-Israeli relationship has the potential to make a significant impact on global politics by altering the balance of power, not only in South Asia and the Middle East, but also in the larger Asian region. Do you agree with this assessment? 

No! That balance has changed already because of two reasons.One is that for a long time we did not have diplomatic relations with Israel but we used to deal with them in the UN forums because they were member of the UN.  Secondly, India has become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. And in this globalized world, India has to buildup economic relations and other ties with all the powers in the region and outside.  India is a member of the G-20, right now also a member of the UN Security Council and we have also joined the regional forums like the ASEAN.  We are an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. So, there are all these various organizations that bilaterally, trilaterally, multilaterally we are interacting with the other countries in a different kind of framework and India-Israel relationship to that extent would make a difference.

I feel that it should be seen as a more positive input into the building up of the Asian peace scenario and global cooperation scenario.  Because India has been a leader of the Non-Aligned World , of the Afro-Asian Solidarity and so if we are now trying to develop more interactive relations, strategic partnerships with a larger number of countries, we should be seen that now we are becoming really more actively involved, commensurate with our economic and strategic presence and footprint in the region and outside of region.

6. India and Israel seem to be up against a "pragmatic," non-ideological American administration under President Obama whose policy initiatives and proclivities have the potential to cause friction in their respective bilateral interactions, despite the best of intentions. The issues in contention range from strategic concerns like Pakistan and Iran, to nuclear non-proliferation and economic factors like outsourcing of jobs. 

Well, the point is that United States upto the time that President Obama took over had moved in a certain direction whereby in various Islamic countries or countries with large Islamic populations, USA was seen as a threat, as an enemy and it was understood also by the American political leaders and, therefore, when President Obama came to power after elections, his senior advisors told him that USA must change its image among the Islamic people and Islamic countries and therefore one of the very important visits which he undertook fairly early in his presidency was to Egypt and to some other Islamic countries and he wanted to emphasise that apart from his personal interaction with the Islamic people, Islamic families, he also felt that America was not at cross purposes with the Islamic people and Islamic countries  and would buildup relations with them. 

Unfortunately, what has happened within our own region. Pakistan which had already become a major non-NATO power ally of the United States under the previous administration, once again has become the kingpin of President Obama’s pro-Islamic policy and to curb terrorism at the same time in Afghanistan and Uzbek region. And now as more and more information is coming out from the American security circles, it is not Uzbek region but it is Pak region.  This is causing the maximum amount of headache to the Americans, so therefore what is happening is that because of their own domestic and international image, the Americans are changing their view point and their relationship with Islamic countries.  They are continuing with the policy of containment at the same time building up the new ties.  So, there are sometimes perceptions in countries like India and Israel that America is no longer the same country as it used to be in the past.  It is trying to negotiate a very delicate process and all along in India we had seen that while India was taken as a potential partner but in all matters relating to arms transfers or Pakistan’s terrorist activities in India, we saw that Americans were not really able to control Pakistan and were willing to give them anything, money, arms, any kind of strategic support, so they were going all out to support Pakistan of today whereas for India it was more words for the future.

So, therefore, what we have to see is that we have to keep on building relations with countries like Israel, with all the other neighboring countries in South Asia, Middle East, East Asia, everywhere else.  The point is that we have to buildup our own strength, our own maneuverability and diplomatic connections with all the countries and, therefore, the strategic partnership that I talked about, are very important because we find that as of now the present realities force Americans to support Pakistan even though it may be a collapsing or nearly collapsed and they have become of source of trouble, terrorist trouble, source of the nuclear black market and all kinds of armament transfers everywhere.

So, they have become that kind of an issue but we have to also keep in mind that yes, there is a future in which India has to play a more important role and we need to buildup that future for our own immediate region, for the larger neighborhood and therefore for that we need to buildup relations with countries like China and Russia, Iran for our immediate neighborhood and for the larger neighbor it needs buildup relations with countries of the West Asia including Israel.

And, Europe of course. We are member of G-20, we have to see that these countries have a larger presence in G-20 or G-8 or in the UN Security Council, so we have to see that where the future scenario unfolds we keep on having good relations with these countries. 


Response  to Questionnaire

(1)Dr. Itzhak Gerberg,

 Ambassador of Israel to Georgia,formerly Consul-General of Israel in Bombay (Mumbai)

(He holds a PhD in International Politics from the University of South Africa, and his doctoral research focused on India-Israel relations. He obtained his MA degree in Political Science from Haifa University and was an instructor at the Israel National Defense College (INDC). Dr. Gerberg has been a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and a Research Fellow at the Israel National Defense College Research Centre.) 


Q.1.In the ensuing "war on terror", in the wake of Mumbai 26/11 attacks , could the security relationship between India and Israel develop into a strategic alliance?    

1.Yes, taking into consideration the current military bilateral cooperation on one hand and the future situation in Afghanistan on the other. 

Q.2. India –Israel relationship  has become an issue in domestic politics of India. Is it  true of domestic politics of Israel too? 

2. No. There is a complete supportive consensus about Indo-Israel relations in the Israeli political arena. 

Q.3. India and Israel seem to be up against a "pragmatic," non-ideological American administration under President Obama whose policy initiatives and proclivities have the potential to cause friction in their respective bilateral interactions, despite the best of intentions. The issues in contention range from strategic concerns like Pakistan and Iran, to nuclear non-proliferation and economic factors like outsourcing of jobs. Do you agree?  

3. No. Obama's foreign policy, Iran etc.,should not affect the bilateral Indo-Israel relations, which depend on strategic joint and common national  interests. Moreover, regardless  the approach of the American president, India, Israel and the US, as leading democracies in their regions must find the way for trilateral strategic cooperation. (30-10-2010) 


(2) Prof. Efraim Inbar 
Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies 
Bar-Ilan University 
Ramat-Gan , Israel 52900 

(Efraim Inbar is a Professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and the Director of its Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

Born in Romania (1947), he was educated at the Hebrew University (B.A. in Political Science and English Literature) and at the University of Chicago (M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science). He served as visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University (2004), at Georgetown University (1991-92), and visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (1996). Prof. Inbar was appointed as a Manfred Warner NATO Fellow (1998), was a visiting fellow at the (London) International Institute for Strategic Studies (2000), and was the recipient of the Onassis Fellowship (2003). He lectures at institutions such as RAND, Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Oxford, and Yale Universities.

His area of specialization is Middle Eastern strategic issues with a special interest in the politics and strategy of Israeli national security. He has written over 60 articles in professional journals. He has authored five books: Outcast Countries in the World Community (1985), War and Peace in Israeli Politics. Labor Party Positions on National Security (1991), Rabin and Israel’s National Security (1999), The Israeli-Turkish Entente (2001), and Israel's National Security: Issues and Challenges since the Yom Kippur War . He has also edited eleven collections of articles.

Prof. Inbar served in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) as a paratrooper. He was a member of the Political Strategic Committee of the National Planning Council and the Chair of the Committee for the National Security Curriculum at the Ministry of Education. He serves on the Academic Committee of the History Department of the IDF and as the President of the Israel Association of International Studies. Prof. Inbar is widely quoted in the Israeli and international press.

Areas of Specialization : War and Strategy;National Security Problems in the Middle East;Israeli Politics ) 


1.In the ensuing "war on terror", in the wake of Mumbai 26/11 attacks , could the security relationship between India and Israel develop into a strategic alliance?   

I would use the term strategic partnership. After all, neither India nor

Israel , want to get involved directly in the other party’s wars. Cooperation in many strategic areas is mutually beneficial and there is room for enhancing these interactions.

2. Israel doesn't see any long term benefits with supporting India . But with better relations with Pakistan , Israel can open up the middle east and the rest of the muslim world. Do you agree with this view point? 

NO. Pakistan is not a stable state as it is under increasing pressure form radical Muslim elements. The foreign policy orientation Pakistan is also problematic as it is relies heavily on China . Moreover, most of the political elites in the Muslim world have already accepted Israel as a fait accompli and reconciled themselves to the idea that it cannot be eradicated by force. Israel does not need Pakistan as an entrance door to the Muslim world. In contrast, India is a stable democracy increasingly aligned with the leader of the free world, the US .  

3. India – Israel relationship  has become an issue in domestic politics of India . Is it  true of domestic politics of Israel too? 

No. There is nobody of consequence in Israel that questions the importance of the burgeoning relationship between Jerusalem and Delhi . Moreover, there is great interest and respect for the Indian civilization. Tens of thousands of young Israelis  have visited in recent years India as backpacker, creating a huge reservoir of sympathy for India in Israel .  

Note :

In his Paper Halt Nuclear Iran (BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 124, December 2, 2010) Prof. Efraim Inbar has stated that “an Iranian nuclear arsenal will also unhinge the precarious nuclear balance on the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan , Iran's neighbor, will have to adjust its nuclear posture. Such an adjustment will inevitably require changes in the Indian nuclear posture, possibly creating an even more sensitive nuclear balance. ”  

In view of this  we had asked Prof. Efraim Inbar if  he visualized nuclear cooperation between India and Israel in the distant future although India had ,at the turn of the century,ruled out such a cooperation ? He replied :  

It depends what you mean by cooperation. I can see Israel and India sharing intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program and maybe taking together secret steps to prevent it. Anything dealing with the nuclear postures is unlikely at this stage. 

(3) Professor Yaacov Vertzberger

Department of  International Relations 
Hebrew University of Jerusalem 
91905 Jerusalem, ISRAEL

(Yaacov Y.I. Vertzberger received his Ph.D. Summa Cum Laude from the Hebrew  University  of Jerusalem in 1979 and joined the Department of International Relations ,where  he is currently a full Professor. He was also a visiting researcher and professor at several  major universities and research institutes in Europe, North America and Japan,including : Stanford University,McGill University,UC Berkeley,UC San Diego,The Mershon  Center (Ohio State University) group on the role of cognition in collective decision making, The East-West Center ,The Rockefeller Bellagio Center,The Netherlands Institute for Advanced  Study,The Swedish Institute of International Affairs, and the UN University (Tokyo).

Professor Vertzberger’s  areas of interest and research include : theory of international relations,international  political economy, political psychology,and the foreign  and security policies of South Asian  countries.He has published extensively on these issues.His articles appeared in major journals and his books were published by leading university and commercial presses.Among his major publications are the following books and monographs : Risk Taking and Decisionmaking ; Foreign Military Intervention Decisions; The World in their Minds:Information Processing ,Cognition and Perception in Foreign Policy Decisionmaking; China’s Southwestern Strategy: Encirclement  and Counterencirclement; Misperceptions in Foreign Policymaking : The Sino-Indian Conflict,1959-62;Coastal States,Regional Powers,Superpowers and the Malacca-Singapore Straits;The Enduring  Entente : Sino-Pakistani Relations 1960-1980.

His current research is centered on the process of reforms in social strategic  policies and global disasters management.)

    India-Israel Relations: The Road Ahead

Yaacov Y.I. Vertzberger

Q1.In the ensuing "war on terror", in the wake of Mumbai 26/11 attacks , could the security relationship between India and Israel develop into a strategic alliance? 

A1. The strategic relationship between India and Israel is structured around a shared broad view

of common and complimentary interests of both countries. In other words, it is unlikely to be restructured due to a single event, no matter how dramatic. In fact, even that particular dramatic event has not affected the essence of India's, and even more so, of Israel's definitions of their respective security interests and threat sources.

    The Mumbai attack has revealed gaping holes in India's early warning system that have had to be plugged. It is in regard to the measures of addressing these deficiencies where the relationship between India and Israel has been fruitful. This applies to four domains: (1) intelligence sharing, which has been in place for some time; (2) the sharing of experience regarding best-practice strategies for locking as tightly as possible India's long (7,000 kms) shoreline, a subject on which Israel has acquired a great deal of experience following a number of costly failures. These lessons would prove to be very useful for India; (3) the acquisition and application of advanced passive and active electronic reconnaissance, surveillance and detection measures, including advanced satellite capabilities, to "fence off" the shoreline (24/7); and (4) the operational activation of combined fast response forces (naval, land and air) to timely engage, seize and destroy any suspicious penetration craft before they can reach the shore and land. Here again Israel can offer the hardware and training for combined operations. Israel has acquired rich operational experience of coordinated land, air and naval operations in pursuit, seizure and destruction of detected threat targets, and at the same time minimizing errors in identifying and separating hostile crafts from innocent ones (e.g., trading and fishing boats).

    Cooperation in these issue areas does not require changing the current frame of the security relationship between India and Israel. In fact, redefining the relationship to an alliance status would have uncomfortable implications for both countries, and might be perceived by third parties as mutual commitment by both states to get militarily involved in their respective regional militarized conflicts, in South Asia and the Middle East. This is, for obvious political and practical reasons, not in the interest of either India or Israel. In the case of Israel, it might also trigger Chinese suspicions and perniciously affect a relationship that Israel considers of great political and economic value, that is, Sino-Israel relations.

    Taking all these considerations into account there seems to be no pressing need or advantage in upgrading the relationship to the status of a strategic alliance. At the same time it is obvious that the India-Israel relations are on a trajectory towards becoming a comprehensive special relationship.

Q2. Israel doesn't see any long term benefits with supporting India. But with better relations with Pakistan, Israel can open up the middle east and the rest of the muslim world. Do you agree with this view point?

A2. In light of the discussion above, the second question takes for granted a set of assumptions that are wrong on practically every count. First, Israel views the relationship with India, both short and long term, as an essential, vital multidimensional high-value asset, economically, commercially, strategically and politically. To illustrate briefly, India is increasingly becoming an important market for Israeli low and high-tech goods of its civilian and military industries and with the establishment of a PTA trade could reach 15 bn dollars by 2015. It is also likely to become a preferred destination for investments by Israeli companies looking for untapped opportunities abroad in an increasing range of technological areas, as well as land and property development and various forms of outsourcing. This will also present broader opportunities for joint ventures between the Israeli and the Indian business community in bio and agro-technologies, diamonds, manufacturing, communication technologies, space technologies, pharmaceutics and more.

    Strategically the two countries have, as indicated above, common interest in intelligence cooperation against threats ranging from globalized terror to crime organizations. There is also a strong interface between the two countries in coping with threats from WMD, including the sharing of capabilities for the construction of systems for early warning and interception of ballistic and other missiles, whether land, air or sea based.

    Politically, India's central role in a broad range of multilateral organizations can benefit Israel in its attempts to contain attempt to isolate it in the international arena.

    On the other hand, the prospects for normalization of relations with Pakistan are low, even though there are some sectors in the Pakistani society and policy circles that may view normalization favorably. Yet, the general atmosphere in Pakistan is not conducive for normalization before a peace agreement of sorts with, at least, the Palestinians will be reached, which is unlikely to happen any time soon. Even following such an agreement it is highly likely that the increasing Islamization of Pakistani society, which has strong radical overtones (rather than being of an enlightened flavor), will pose insurmountable cultured and political barriers to normalization of relations between Israel and Pakistan.

    Although of a low probability, in a more optimistic scenario, an exchange of diplomatic representatives, most likely non-residential, might encourage some moderate Islamic states, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and some of the Gulf Principalities, to overcome their hesitations over normalizing their relations with Israel. This is possible but not highly likely as the perception of Pakistan's influence as a role model in the Moslem world, beyond South Asia, is probably exaggerated. There are, however, other issues that would need to be addressed between Pakistan and Israel, such as Pakistan's support for terror activities by groups that are ideologically motivated and might seek to transnationalize their imprint to other conflicts, beyond South Asia, where Moslems confront non-Moslems such as Jews (in the Middle East), and Christians in Europe (e.g., Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Spain, etc.). Israel will have to convincingly convey that if Pakistan will not be linked or associated with the exportation by proxy, of the Indo-Pakistani conflict to other regions, Israel will have no inclination to operate against Pakistani interests. In a similar vein Israel should clarify its absolute objection to any form of nuclear proliferation activities, by individuals or organizations based in Pakistan, whether state-driven or not, and that Pakistan will bear the responsibility for these activities. In this context it should also make clear that Indo-Israeli extensive relations do not pose a threat to Pakistan and do not imply that Israel takes, or will take, a position on the essence of the ideological, political, religious and military conflict between India and Pakistan that favors either side.

    To conclude, on the whole the balance of Israeli interests clearly, and by a large margin, favors in any foreseeable future relations with India over Pakistan, even in the best case analysis where Pakistan would agree to establish some kind of a formal relationship with Israel. In that case Israel should respond positively to the upgrading of engagement with Pakistan. India should refrain, in such a case, from constructing these developments as a threat or change of preferences in Indo-Israeli relations.

Q3.India –Israel relationship  has become an issue in domestic politics of India. Is it  true of domestic politics of Israel too?

A3. The relationship with India is one of the few foreign policy issues that are not contested in Israeli domestic policies. There is a broad cross-sectoral consensus over the importance and necessity of the relationship with India. Furthermore, Indian culture is highly respected and admired, especially since thousands of young Israelis have made India their preferred travel destination (after completion of a compulsory 3-years military service). Although, some of them had clashed with India's law authorities, or got caught up in the drugs circle, this cohort of young people forms a constituency that has been socialized by direct experience and is a bearer of a massage of admiration and good will towards India, its society and culture.

Q4. India and Israel seem to be up against a "pragmatic," non-ideological American administration under President Obama whose policy initiatives and proclivities have the potential to cause friction in their respective bilateral interactions, despite the best of intentions. The issues in contention range from strategic concerns like Pakistan and Iran, to nuclear non-proliferation and economic factors like outsourcing of jobs. 

A4. It is true that both India and Israel have had their share of problems with the Obama Administration, which stemmed from his administration's over enthusiasm and inexperience in foreign policy that verged on ignorance. President Barak Obama has been trying of late to mend fences with both countries. Yet, the dilemma of the Obama Administration faces in balancing in both sets of relationships, US-Israel-Arab world and US-India-Pakistan, should not be underestimated. Trying to walk this tight triple rope without falling off it, in the prevailing complex political and security situations in the Middle East and South Asia, is bound to produce irritants, misperceptions and policy misjudgments in US's relations with both Israel and India. The US, India and Israel will have to device effective diplomatic instruments to manage these problems wisely and cautiously, to avoid spilling the baby with the bath waters. There is, however, a major difference in how India and Israel can leverage their positions in the US political system, to block and contain unwanted and even damaging presidential initiatives to their interests.

Q5. Do you regard the emerging India-Israel ties as a win-win situation for both countries?

A5. There is little doubt that India-Israel comprehensive special relationship represents a long-term win-win situation for both countries. To the extent that there are issues on which the two countries do not see eye to eye, the ongoing dialog and the mutual recognition of the broad range of shared and complementary interests would overcome these irritations.


 (4) Dr. Harsh V. Pant

Department of Defence Studies,King's College London,United Kingdom

(Harsh V. Pant teaches at King’s College London in the Department of Defence Studies. He is also an Associate with the King’s Centre for Science and Security Studies and an Affiliate with the King’s India Institute. His current research is focused on Asian security issues. His most recent books include Contemporary Debates in Indian Foreign and Security Policy (Palgrave Macmillan), Indian Foreign Policy in a Unipolar World(Routledge) and The China Syndrome (HarperCollins). Email : "Pant, Harsh" <harsh.pant@kcl.ac.uk>                                                                                                                                                                


1.In the ensuing "war on terror", in the wake of Mumbai 26/11 attacks , could the security relationship between India and Israel develop into a strategic alliance?   

This is highly unlikley. Indian elites are uncomfortable with alliances per se given India's non-aligned history. Moreover, Indian domestic politics will not allow a formal alliance to take shape between India and Israel. 

2. Has India's position on Palestine undergone a change in the wake of growing India-Israel relationship?  

There has been little change in so far as the rhetoric is concerned but in substantive terms India has gradually modified its position in so far recent Indian governments have not allowed the Palestinian issue to come in the way of developing close ties with Israel. 

3.  Do you agree that  evolving India-Israel relationship could damage India's relationship with countries such as Iran and Syria, with whom India has friendly relations but Israel does not.  

India's ties with Iran and Syria will develop or decay based on how convergent Indian national interests are with the interests of these states. Israel will only play a marginal role, if at all. 

4. India and Israel seem to be up against a "pragmatic," non-ideological American administration under President Obama whose policy initiatives and proclivities have the potential to cause friction in their respective bilateral interactions, despite the best of intentions. The issues in contention range from strategic concerns like Pakistan and Iran, to nuclear non-proliferation and economic factors like outsourcing of jobs.  

There will be some strains in India and Israel's ties with the Obama Administration but in the long term Washington's interests are far more convergent with Delhi's and Tel Aviv's and so there will be a strategic convergence.  

5. A growing Indo-Israeli relationship has the potential to make a significant impact on global politics by altering the balance of power, not only in South Asia and the Middle East, but also in the larger Asian region. Do you agree with this assesment?  

I agree as I am the source of this statement. It is from my article on India-Israel.   (22 December, 2010)

 (5) M. MAHMOOD 
Professor of Political Science, Retired, Aligarh Muslim University 
Aligarh 202002 India

Email : m.mahmood45@gmail.com

Area of Specialization:

Comparative Politics (Indian Government and Politics)/International Relations (South and West Asia)

Book Publication :

Prof. M.Mahmood  has written books on International affairs in English as well as Urdu. Mention may be made of "An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Politics,New Delhi,2006; "The Political System of the Islamic Republic of Iran” ,New Delhi, 2006; "A Dictionary of Politics” ,New Delhi, 2004; "Soviet Policy towards the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948-1988, New Delhi, 1988; "Regional Integration in South Asia. Problems and Prospects ,New Delhi ,1986; Book Publication in Urdu includes, "Urdu translation of Bimal Prasad's The Origins of Indian foreign policy,New Delhi: Bureau for promotion of Urdu, GOI, 1977.


Gone are the days of Nehru's pragmatic approach to the Israeli entity. He was neither for Israel nor against the Arabs; neither he was for the Arabs and against Israel. All in all, he was for India and her long-term interests. How could he  side with one against  the 22?

End of Nehru era, then end of the Cold War, then American sponsored and Chinese inspired liberalization, then ascendancy of the rightist forces in New Delhi. Lo and behold! India tilts towards the USA and its protegy, Israel.

I'm firmly convinced Indian policy is geared towards greater integration with the American-European-Israeli policy against the vital interests of the Arab-Islamic world.

Why put a question regarding India-Israel strategic cooperation? It is already a fact of life. (30 -11- 2010)


(6) Nathan Katz                                                   
Bhagwan Mahavir Professor of Jain Studies and Professor of Religious Studies 
Florida International University,Modesto A. Maidique Campus, DM 302,Miami, FL 33199 
www.indojudaic.com; spirituality.fiu.edu; religion.fiu.edu/mahavir Emailkatzn@fiu.edu

(My research focuses on Indo-Judaic studies, an area that I helped to pioneer. I am interested in the interactions and affinities between Indic and Judaic civilizations. I have written books about Jewish communities in India, and articles about ancient world links between India and Israel, comparisons of themes within Judaism on the one hand and Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism on the other, as well as about Hindu-Jewish and Buddhist-Jewish dialogue. In 1990 I was invited to join a delegation of eight scholars and rabbis who met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his palace in Dharamsala, India for extensive Jewish-Tibetan dialogue, and in 2009 I addressed the first quasi-official dialogue meeting held in the west between swamis and rabbis.

My interest is based both in my training and my own personal journey. I have spent many years in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal) and was trained in the classical thought and languages of the subcontinent. I have written a number of books and articles about Indo-Tibetan religions, both in South Asia and in the diaspora. Since I have a strong Judaic background, combining the two was a natural for me. 
Some years ago I started FIU’s unique Program in the Study of Spirituality. As well as bringing some of the world’s greatest practitioners and scholars of spirituality to speak at FIU, we have the world’s only undergraduate program in the study of spirituality. To learn more, please see 
At FIU I teach specialized courses about the Religions of India – a variety of undergraduate and graduate offerings on the texts and histories of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, as well as about the Jews of Asia.  I teach World Religions, and on occasion the methods seminar. I have just developed a new course, “Contemporary Global Spirituality,” that investigates the relationship between spirituality and the professions, such as health care, business and entrepreneurship, education, the arts, military sciences, psychology, and so on. In 2010 I was named the Bhagwan Mahavir Professor of Jain Studies, and will be developing courses, lectures, and exchange programs in this exciting area. Please see 
I have been very involved in FIU's programs in Asian Studies and Jewish Studies, and have taught in the College of Business (as the Kauffman Professor of Entrepreneurship, 2009-2010) and the College of Medicine.)  

1.Beyond being targets of Islamic terrorism, the softer tissue of human experience — culture, religion, and values — binds Indians and Jews. Do you agree with this assessment? 

I agree entirely. There is much more that binds India and Israel. Shares values for one – the obvious commitment to democracy, the mutual respect between ancient cultures with vast literary, philosophic, artistic and religious resonances, the contemporary lucrative interactions in IT and other fields, common concerns about the diaspora-home relationship. But beyond these, there is an indescribable mutual affection. 

2.What are the tools to improve and strengthen people-to-people contacts between Indians and Israelis?  

Tourism for one. I would love to see more Indians visiting Israel. I would dearly love to see academic relations expand. Very many Israelis in general and Jews in particular are ‘India-wallahs,’ but there is a lack of symmetry. I want Indians to come to Israel or the US to study western culture, to study Jewish literature and philosophy. The conversations have been all too one sided thus far. 

3.India –Israel relationship has become an issue in domestic politics of India. Is it true of domestic politics of Israel too? 

It is non-controversial in Israel, so I would say not. 

4.How do you view the India-Israel relations? What are the next milestones the two countries are expected to reach in their efforts to boost relationship. 

Beyond the obvious security and military collaborations, I want to see Indians become more knowledgeable about Israel and about Jews. This is affected through academic, artistic, and cultural exchanges, as well as tourism. When and if India takes a seat on the UNSC, I hope its anti-Israel kneejerk positions will become re-thought.   

(8 December, 2010) 

Note : Prof. Nathan Katz observes that there are so many interactions between Jews, Israel, and India that a new academic field of Indo-Judaic studies has developed, with the Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies extant since the mid-1990s. Katz, an Indologist, entered this field in 1986-19  87 when he and his wife lived in Cochin with a Jewish family. According to him, in general, Indian perception of both Jews and Israel is very positive, affectionate, and with much idealization.

For an Interview with Nathan Katz on The Jews, Israel, and India , see Changing Jewish Communities, http://www.jcpa.org/cjc/cjc-katz-f05.htm



India-Israel Relations and the Concept of National Interest in Multi-Ethnic/Religious States

                                                                                  Theodore P. Wright, Jr.

                                                                     Emeritus Professor of Political Science

                                                                     State University of New York at Albany, USA

     (Professor Wright took his doctorate in international relations at Yale in 1957. He taught for ten years at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and then for thirty years in the Graduate School of Public Affairs of the State University of New York at Albany. Beginning in 1961 with his first visit to India, he has specialized in his research in the politics of the Muslim minority of India and has published some seventy articles and contributions to symposia volumes including the  American Political Science Review, the Journal of Asian Studies and the Economic and Political Weekly of India. Email:wrightt@gleneddy.com)


It is a cardinal principle of the "realist" theory of international relations that the foreign policy of a sovereign nation state ought to be in pursuit of the "national interest".(Hans Morgenthau, “In Defense of the National Interest”, 1951)  Any deviation from this course in response, for instance, to the pressures of domestic religious or ethnic minority groups, is fraught with peril and may lead to the defeat and even extinction of the state.

   Sometimes this apothogem is stated as description: "all states always do pursue national interests" which is manifestly untrue as states have lost wars, even to the point of extinction. More accurately, it should be stated prescriptively: "if a state does not pay heed to its vital interests, the price will be high even to loss of its sovereignty”. Often the demise of the Polish monarchy in 1772-1795 is cited as an awful example. Although the cause was not religious politics but a selfish ruling class, the result was the same: loss of  independence for a century and a quarter. Realists like Hans Morgenthau attribute the tragic outcome in other cases to Idealists' overreach for moralistic goals like US President Woodrow Wilson's project to eliminate war through collective security organization (the League of Nations) after the First World War. Idealists retorted that both World Wars were brought on by the arrogance of amoral would-be world conquerors like Napoleon and Hitler who “universalized” the national interests of France and Germany respectively. .

      In any case, the Realist case stands or falls on the existence of an objective,

ascertainable "interest", minimally the survival of the state, unless it were to join a broader confederation voluntarily. But the existence of an empirically verifiable inerest is is exactly what Marxists and other economic determinists deny. Vannick, for instance, sees the hypothetical national interest as only the welfare of a ruling class concealing its exploitation of subaltern classes for its own benefit. Delineation of the national interest is especially difficult where as with many of the post-colonial "new nations" , and not the least India, the population is not relatively homogenous, but linguistically and religiously diverse. If and when this is the case and one or more of the minorities are politically mobilized on behalf of beleaguered minorities of the same faith outside the state's borders, the potential appears for conflict between majority and minority definitions of the national interest.

   With the United States of America, the first "new nation",  relative isolation from the

"ordinary vicissitudes of European politics", to use President Washington's words, for long obscured this conflict. Instead it was regional conflict between two "Wasp" (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) elites which culminated in a civil war (1861-1865). Only with the largescale immigration of Irish Catholics in the 1840s, intent on freeing their homeland from British hegemony, did the potential for conflicting definitions of national interest arise. This was also obscured for the rest of the nineteenth century by the anglophobia of the Wasp majority since the Revolutionary war (1776-82) and the War of 1812 against Great Britain.

   Ethnic conflict over foreign policy of the United States became acute only with the debates over American entry into the two World Wars. Leadup to participation in the First World War on the side of the Allies, pitted elements of the large German and Irish minorities against  the Eastern Wasp elite. Likewise, the isolationist vs. interventionist debate of 1937-1941 had a partly ethnic, partly regional character, but it was the mostly non-political Japanese minority who suffered the most, being uprooted from their West coast homes and deported to detention camps.

   During the Cold War with the Soviet Union (1948-1991), somewhat of a religious split manifested itself in the early years, with secular Jews more sympathetic with the USSR and Catholics and Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe more anti-Soviet. because of  communist persecution of religion in their ancestral homelands. In general, however, there was a broad consensus on national interests in the Cold War until it fell apart temporarily in the Vietnam war. (1964-74)

      Where minority ethno-religious pressures diverged again from the national interest was in United States policy towards the Arab-Israeli dispute in the Middle East putting the United States squarely behind Israel. Democracy worked in the opposite direction in India, making it favor the Palestinians. P.R. Kumarawamy has convincingly and exhaustively argued that “vote bank politics” allowed the large (12%) Muslim minority to sway foreign policy against full diplomatic relations with Israel for forty years. During the same period, American policy in the Middle East has increasing favored Israel over the Palestinians. The last time the United States alligned itself against Israel was in the Suez crisis of 1955 when President Eisenhower compelled Great Britain, France and Israel to evacuate the Suez canal and Sinai. The Jewish minority in the United States, while much smaller (2%) than Muslims in India has enjoyed unparalled economic mobility coupled with disproportionate academic and media influence during the past two generations. This has enabled it to organize the most powerful lobby in Washington: AIPAC (American Israel Political Action Committee). This lobby, while not representing even all Jewish-Americans, has succeeded in persuading most Americans that Israel's national interests in the area are identical with those of the United States. In recent years fundamentalist American Christians have given the pro-Israel camp the numbers which it had lacked.  Mearsheimer and Walt (“The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, 2007) have presented the case for conflict between America's and Israel's interest , but not have  succeeded in convincing public opinion. It has even been argued that a small clique of mostly Jewish “neocons” (neo-conservatives) inveigled the Bush-Cheney administration into attacking Iraq in 2003, to the great detrimentof the national interest. Mearsheimer and Walt list three main interests of the United States in the Middle East: keeping Persian Gulf oil flowing to world markets; discouraging the spread of weapons of mass destruction and reducing anti-American terrorism originating in the region. They demonstrate how all three interests have been harmed by favoritism to Israel.

   For India, although there is a usually latent conflict of goals between the Dravidian parties of Tamilnadu state and the “Center” over policy towards the long Sri Lankan civil war over Tamil secessionism, the most conspicuous case of imposition of a religious minority on Indian foreign policy has been the forty years long Indian refusal fully to recognize the Israeli state. As Professor P.R. Kumaraswamy has demonstrated meticulously and exhaustively in his recent “India's Israel Policy” (2010) , this policy has its origins in the efforts of the Indian National Congress to court the large (25% before partition in 1947) and formerly dominant Muslim minority to join the struggle against British rule. Beginning with the Khilafat movement in 1919,  Congress had an affinity with Arab nationalism which rendered it hostile to Zionism and the Jewish state despite the arguments by Hindu nationalists both within and outside Congress to treat the two parties to the Arab-Israeli dispute more evenhandedly in accord with India's national interests. These include access to oil and employment in the Gulf and support in the UN against Pakistan in the Kashmir controversy. As a functioning democracy, Indian political parties have been vulnerable, like American parties in the United States, to “vote bank politics”, the ability in elections of organized and highly motivated ethno-religious minorities to influence foreign policy over the indifference of the majority. Muslim leadership in India has been careful since independence, not to lobby on Pakistan's behalf or for the right of Muslim majority Kashmir to secede from India. Here the vital interests of the Indian state, or at least of its ruling elite, are at stake.

     Since the turnabout of Indian foreign policy in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the Hindu nationalist B.J.P. to power in New Delhi (1998-2004) , not only has India fully recognized Israel, but has gone a long way towards accepting the American position on the Arab-Israeli dispute  and sanctions on Iran in return for a nuclear treaty and other economic benefits. Only the declining Left block of parties has resisted this diplomatic revolution. In the United States, the new but unproven “J street lobby” has arisen to dispute AIPAC power from within the Jewish community. But for a non-Jew to challenge that American and Israeli interests are identical is to invite the charge of anti-Semitism, which has been the kiss of death politically since the holocaust.


The Indian Jews in Israel- A Forgotten Diaspora?

Dr. Maina Chawla Singh

                                                                                           University of Delhi ; Scholar-in-Residence, American University, Washington DC

  (Maina Chawla Singh Ph.D. , Associate Professor, University of Delhi . Author of Being Indian, Being Israeli : Migration, Ethnicity and Gender in the Jewish Homeland. New Delhi: 2009; Gender, Religion, and “Heathen Lands’: American Missionary Women in South Asia (1860s – 1940sNew York: 2000.

Singh has extensively researched Indian Jewish communities in Israel. She has been  Haddasah-Brandeis Scholar-in-Residence and Fellow, Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Brandeis University. Singh is currently Scholar-in-Residence, American University, Washington DC. Email : msingh@american.edu )

India-Israel relations today are at a comfort level that is promoting trade, collaboration and bi-lateral exchanges at a steady pace. Delegations move back and forth, ministerial visits are  frequent, and official statements quote bi-lateral trade statistics with much satisfaction. Official  figures quote investment figures of Israeli businessmen attracted to Indian markets and more recently the beginnings of Indian investment in acquiring or investing in Israeli businesses where collaborations are mutually profitable. From a base of US$ 200 million worth of trade in 1992  when India and Israel established full diplomatic relations, bi-lateral trade today is multi-sectored  and was reported in 2008 at US$ 4010.1 million.(i)Although Embassy websites and public  statements are low-key about the defence collaborations between the two countries, media  reports claim that .Israel has overtaken Russia as the main defence supplier to India after  breaking the $1 billion mark in new contracts signed annually over the past two years. (ii) The  Embassies in New Delhi and Tel Aviv are active in cultural outreach engaging the people of  India and of Israel.

However, even as bi-lateral co-operation between the two countries touches new heights in commerce, trade and defence, and Consular figures of the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv claim that over 40,000 visas are given to Israelis who visit India every year, little is known about the Indian Israelis – a community of Indian Jews estimated at over 70,000 who live scattered across Israel today. This becomes all the more conspicuous given that in recent years Indian communities in the diaspora have become increasingly active and visible in bi-lateral relations of India and the countries where Indians have chosen to settle. Indian-origin individuals as corporate professionals and in some cases active in local politics have become prominent at platforms of bi-lateral exchange. For example, Indian-origin individuals in Mauritius and Fiji have had a history of political prominence, since the 1980s Indians have entered mainstream British politics, and more recently the Indian diaspora community in America is gaining prominence in mainstream US politics. The elections of two second-generation Indian Americans, Bobby Jindal and more recently Nikki Haley, as governors has caught much media attention – perhaps more in India, than in the US.

In this narrative of overseas Indians, and the even louder narrative of Indo-Israeli collaboration, the Indian-origin community of Israel remains invisible. In popular discourses in India, few people know about the Jewish communities who emigrated in thousands between the 1950s and the 1970s to Israel and were bestowed Israel citizenship immediately upon arrival. Indeed, at  lectures in Israel when I would remark that there are over 70,000 Indian Jews in Israel, students at Israeli universities and even among educated elites in central Israel, the response commonly was: ‘Are there so many Indian Jews here?’ While there is some excellent historical and anthropological scholarship on Indian Jews, there is a tendency to view Indian Jews as 'exotic’, dwelling on their unique life-cycle rituals/ cultural practices, which set Indian Jews apart from other Jewish communities from Europe and elsewhere. A rigorous examination of ethnicity, identity and their community self-image remains elusive -- even though the first India Jewish families migrated to Israel over 60 years ago!

As Indian-Israeli relations grow, it is important to ask – who are the Indian Israelis? Where are they situated in this configuration of bi-lateral relations between the world‘s largest and one of the world‘s smallest democracies? And, why they have been ‘invisible’ in this scenario? This is an attempt to highlight some distinct aspects of this diaspora community, its self-image and location within Israeli society and polity, and its relationship to India.

I begin by tracing the timing and motives for emigration and discuss the struggles for social  mobility and obstacles to assimilation. Following this, I discuss issues of ethnicity and class, analysing the relationship of Indian-Israelis to their country of origin -- India. In conclusion, I comment briefly on issues of status and identity underscoring some of the reasons for their  ‘invisibility’in the current bi-lateral scenario. (iii)

 The Jews Of India and the ‘Jewish Homeland’

After 1948, the Jewish Agency made aggressive efforts to recruit potential olim (new immigrants). Unlike Jewish communities living in Europe and in many parts of West Asia, Indian Jews were slow to migrate and the bulk of Indian Jewish emigration was only in the 1960s and 1970s – almost a decade after statehood for Israel. Indian Jews have lived for centuries in India mainly as three distinct communities. The Bene Israel were the largest community who mostly lived in Maharashtra and Gujarat – a highly urbanised community with a significant section working for Indian Railway, the Indian armed forces and other white collar  jobs in banks, airlines and textile mills. The Jews of Kerala were scattered around the coastal state – in Cochin and smaller towns like Parur and Chendamanaglam. The Baghdadi Jews were a westernised community living in Calcutta and Bombay with relatives spread across Rangoon, Hong Kong and Shanghai.(iv) Unlike the Kerala Jews and the Bene Israel who were well-acculturated communities, who while praying in Hebrew, widely spoke local regional languages like Malayalam, Marathi and Gujarati, the Baghdadis maintained a Judeo-Arabic tradition, spoke mostly English and socially identified with the western elites in colonial India. (v)

Oddly enough, the three Jewish communities in India hardly mingled with each other, and inter-marriages between them were rare. Jews in India observed their faith and continued to live in pluralistic neighborhoods in different Indian cities and towns amongst their Indian Hindu, Muslim and Christian neighbours. Thus, when the state of Israel was established in 1949, Indian Jews were slow to make ‘aliya’ (the special Hebrew word meaning ascent, used to signify committed migration to Israel). Although, the first small group of observant Jews did arrive in Israel in 1950, the bulk of Indian Jewish migration was in the 1960s -- the result of planned decisions-making by families, not a distress migration, let alone a search for ‘refuge’. Indian Jews had lived peacefully in India for centuries, and although in their traditional recitations they prayed for ‘next year in Jerusalem’, they had no sense of ‘exile’ in their everyday lives.

In time, however, many young Indian Jews were enthused by the zeal for the Zionist project; others of orthodox persuasions were also deeply inspired to make ‘aliya’. Still others were attracted by the idea that their children would find Jewish spouses in Israel, others were simply attracted by the aggressive outreach of the emissaries of the Jewish Agency. As Moshe from Kiryat Gat narrated, “They came to our synagogues in Bombay and began telling us about the new opportunities that there were for us Jews in the newly established country for Jews. They offered us jobs, home-ownership and education for our children.” For hundreds of middle and lower middle class Jewish families, living modest lives with several members of a joint family in  cramped housing in suburban Bombay, the ‘new’ country offering exciting opportunities and the prospect of living in a nation where their special Jewish festivals and rituals would be mainstream was a wonderful thought.

Thus, over the years, thousands of Indians boarded sponsored flights and migrated. Yet, none of them were refugees. They were all winding up settled homes, giving up steady jobs and bidding tearful farewells to their Hindu and Christian friends and neighbours with whom they had shared their lives. Indeed, many first-generation Indian Israelis till retain such strongly sentimental memories. (vi) As per the Israeli Law of Return (1950), welcoming all Jews ‘back’ to Israel, Indian Jews became Israeli citizens immediately upon arrival. Unlike Indians who emigrated elsewhere, say to the UK, Canada, or the US, the Indian Jews did not have issues of visa or immigration status, nor did they have to wait years moving from work permits status, to green cards and then apply for citizenship as their counterparts in the US. Establishing Jewish-ness was enough to become part of the Zionist project to create the ‘Jewish Homeland’. Access to housing, education, employment and healthcare was automatic. But, in practice, there emerged a caveat.

Upon arrival in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, the bulk of Indian Jews were sent to the Israeli ‘periphery’, to ‘moshavim’ (agricultural co-operative villages) and ‘immigrant towns’, both in the arid Negev (desert region in Southern Israel) and in the Northern Israeli border regions. Although envisaged to grow, these regions remained economically depressed, offering low-level  jobs and poor quality education, which essentially prevented these communities from benefitting from the economic growth of Israel or its high educational standards. Although many Indian Jews had held salaried jobs in banks, offices, railways, airlines in Bombay, Gujarat, Kerala, and Calcutta, few got the recognition for their English education or their white-collar skills. Thousands were employed by the Immigrant Absorption department in welfare projects, manual labour or other poorly paid jobs. Even as the Israeli economy grew, the communities in the Israeli ‘periphery’ did not get their share of the pie. And that is where the majority of first-generation Indian Jews have remained — till today. Indian Jews live in thousands in Beersheva, Ashdod, Lod, Ramla and Kiryat Gat (in the arid regions of Southern Israel) and in northern ‘immigrant towns’ like Kiryat Shmona and Kiryat Bialik which continue to have depressed economies and poor opportunities for education or social mobility. Few from the first generation have made it to prosperous Israeli neighbourhoods near Tel Aviv like Ranaana, Ramat Aviv or Herzillya, although second and third generations reveal greater social mobility.

Networks , Organizations and Ethnic Pride

Although the majority of Indian Jews live in the Israeli ‘periphery’(a term widely used by Israeli social scientists to denote the regions beyond the economic hub of Tel Aviv and central Israel), in the ‘Indian cluster towns’  mentioned above, community networks are strong and ethnic cultural retention is apparent. Indian cultural heritage finds expressions in myriad ways — both in family culture, community events and organizations. Indian Jewish families retain distinct practices -- although this may vary by family/ region of origin. (For example, Indian-Baghdadi families may be more westernised than those who came from Kerala or the Bene Israelis from Maharashtra). Indian Jews have their own synagogues and maintain family cultures which have a strong ‘Indian’ flavour – in what they eat, the languages they speak, the music they dance to at their weddings, and many of their life-cycle rituals.

  The ethnic heritage is clearly more watered down among second and third generation Indian Jews who grow up as young Israelis, proudly nationalistic and serving as IDF soldiers. However, community mobilisation is inter-generational for Indian cultural activities and Bollywood-focused song-dance programs. Hundreds of Indian Jews congregate in Ashdod, Ramla or Beersheva to attend such events -- which may be unrelated to Jewish festivals but recreate a  strong Indian ethos. Sometimes, Marathi, Malyalam or Hindi may blend with Hebrew in these programmes, just as Indian-ness and Israeli-ness blend in contemporary Indian-Jewish life in Israel

(Noah Massil (b. 1946) Raigad , Maharashtra came to Israel in 1970( Centre) and his wife Sybia who was born in Karachi ( left) , posing with author ( right) . Noah Massil has been a long-standing President of COIJI, the largest umbrella Organization of Indian Jews in Israel ( estd.1986) with over 30 branches across Israel. Noah Massil was also co-founder of ‘Maiboli’ – a quarterly Marathi magazine (estd.1985).

Indeed, Indian Israelis living among their Jewish cousins who came from East Europe, Morocco or Iraq are conscious that Indian Jews were never refugees in search of a safe haven. They recall bidding tearful farewells to their Hindu and Christian friends and neighbours with whom they had shared their lives in India. First-generation Indian Jews strongly retain this memory and proudly recall India as a ‘Motherland’ with no anti-Semitism. This is reflected in the enthusiasm with which the Indian Israeli community attends the Indian Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations hosted by the Indian Ambassador to Israel.(vii) In fact, even at their own cultural events (about 50 of which I attended), it was moving to see that often the stage, on which second and third generation young Indian-Israeli youth danced to Indian Bollywood songs, was adorned by two national flags – the Israeli and the Indian!

(Indian Independence Day celebrations Aug 2008, hosted by Indian Ambassador to Israel. Young Israeli-born Indian Jewish girls dancing in saris (matching the Indian tri-color!) to the patriotic song ‘Vande Matram’. They are led by David Negrekar of Ashdod, founder of the  cultural group ‘Namaste Israel’. All the performers are second-generation Indian Jews with little contact with India.) 

Conclusion : Lack of Political Clout

Yet, however strong and active these Indian Jewish intra-community networks may be, they are not a show of strength. As a community they are not economically empowered to attract attention, either in high-end corporations, Israeli bureaucracy or the military establishment. Admittedly, they are numerically smaller than say the Moroccan or Iraqis communities settled in Israel, but it is also true that there are too few success stories among Indian Jews to make a mark on mainstream Israeli society. Apart from not being a strong presence socially or professionally, Indian Jews also suffered from cultural stereotyping. Many recounted in their interviews that their workplace image in Israel was widely that of ‘quiet’  people, who worked away and ‘made no trouble’. In a militaristic society like Israel, where young men and women valourise physical prowess and aspire to be included in combat units of the IDF, ‘a quiet worker’  would be a euphemism for ‘passivity’, ‘lack of enterprise’— a definite disadvantage!

Wide-ranging interviews conducted among first-generation Indian Israelis establishes that the post-migration struggles for assimilation and barriers to social mobility posed by post-migration spatial and locational disadvantages, combined with under-recognition of educational  attainments damaged prospects both for social mobility and community empowerment for the  first-generation which have adversely affected the social access of the second generation. Lack  of social status has easily translated to lack of visibility and therefore political clout, both as an ethnic group within Israel, as well as in the ‘Indian diaspora community’.

So while Indian Jews have strong intra-community networks, they have not aggressively staked political ambitions. Not considered a ‘critical mass’ even as a voting bloc, Indian Jews get little political attention, which in turn contributes to their marginalisation even when the Israeli state interacts with their erstwhile home — India. Not surprisingly then, the Indian-Israelis remain neglected in contemporary scholarly discussions -- both in Israel and India.  


i ‘Embassy of India - Bilateral Trade Relations’ :


ii According to news reports, Russia had averaged sales of $875 million annually to India for the past 40 years. Israel Becomes India's Top Defense Supplier with PHALCON Deal | India Defence : http://www.india-defence.com/reports-4221 See also, Hari Sud. “Israel's military supplies to India”.


iii This essay draws from extensive fieldwork done between 2005-8 when I lived and researched in Israel. Over 150 interviews were conducted among first-generation Indian Jews across Israel for this research project. See, Maina Chawla Singh, ‘Being Indian, Being Israeli : Migration, Ethnicity and Gender in the Jewish Homeland.’ ( Manohar, New Delhi : 2009)

iv In their interviews Indian Jews in Israel referred to Indian cities with the older names by which they knew those cities. Thus, in this research, I have retained the use of Calcutta, Bombay and Cochin rather than use the newer  names.

v For comprehensive histories of the Bene Israelis , Kerala jews and the Baghdadis see : Shirley Isenberg, India's  Bene Israel: A Comprehensive Inquiry and Sourcebook, Bombay: Popular Prakashan; Berkeley: Judah L. Magnes Museum, 1988; Elias, Flower and Judith Elias Cooper. The Jews of Calcutta : The Autobiography of a Community. Calcutta: The Jewish Association of Calcutta 1974; Nathan Katz and Ellen S. Goldberg, The Last Jews of Cochin :Jewish Identity in Hindu India. Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

 vi Many still visit Bombay, Ahmedabad and Cochin with their Israeli-born children and reunite with friends they left behind.

vii I attended 8 such events between 2005-8. It was fascinating to observe that Indian community members would  sometimes travel 100 kms in pre-arranged buses to gather for these celebrations. Many amateur groups volunteer to perform for the cultural program. See photo of young Israeli-born Indian Jewish girls dancing in saris (matching the Indian tri-color!) to the patriotic song ‘Vande Matram’. They are led by David Negrekar of Ashdod, founder of the cultural group ‘Namaste Israel’. All the performers are second-generation Indian Jews with little contact with India.  


India-Israel Relations:  The Imperative and the Challenge

                                                         Dr. Richard L. Benkin, US
(Dr. Richard Benkin is a human rights activist, author, and speaker.  Over the past five years, he has freed a journalist from imprisonment and torture in Bangladesh, forced Bangladesh's notorious RAB to release an abductee unharmed, halted an anti-Israel conference in Australia, and raised the issue of Bangladesh's ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Washington and other capitals; among other accomplishments.  In 2009, he received a verbal okay for hearings about the Bangladeshi Hindus from members of the United States government; and will be pursuing those hearings in 2011. In 2005, the United States Congress honored Dr. Benkin for his human rights work.

In 2009, Benkin helped found Forcefield, a human rights NGO, described as "non-agenda driven," in that it is informed by no particular ideology or anti-Israel or other bias in contrast with other human rights organizations.  Its first human rights case is that of Bangladesh’s Hindus.  Richard Benkin received his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania and has since held a number of faculty and business positions in the United States.

He is currently writing a book about the destruction of Bangladesh’s Hindus, entitled A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing. For detailed Bio.go to : http://interfaithstrength.com/RichardBio.htm)


It seems inconceivable that India and Israel lacked any sort of relationship for most of their relatively brief histories or that they only established full diplomatic ties the same year Israel and China did (1992).  Yet by 2003, Yuval Steinitz, then head of the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, said that the strategic alliance with India had become so important that it was “second only to [Israel’s] relations with the United States.” 1  Today, the Israel-India relationship stands as one of the most important bi-lateral ties of the 21st century and arguably the most important in the fight against radical Islam.2  From their births at the end of World War II until the last decade of the 20th century, a number of factors prevented the two nations from joining hands; but three later developments forced that to change.

The first was the fall of the Soviet Union.  The Cold War and US-USSR relations dominated the international landscape, and nations were expected to hew the line favored by one or the other.  On the Middle East, the Americans and their allies were Israel’s major supporters; the Soviets and theirs its major antagonists.3  Although India was a leader of the so-called “non-aligned movement,” the movement’s members were in fact allies of the USSR; and that meant an unyielding pro-Arab position.4  The Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 “changed international realities and caused most nations to take a new look at their strategic interests.” India’s re-assessment forced a more dramatic change than did others.5

The second factor was the rise of radical Islam, and it left India and Israel uniquely bound to one another.  Both are democratic republics committed to religious freedom and opposed to becoming theocracies.  Yet, each is associated strongly with a particular faith.  For Israel, that faith is Judaism; for India, Hinduism.  Hindus and Jews share an historical experience of coercive attempts by Muslims to dominate their ancestral lands and force Islam on their members.  India and Israel have similar-sized Muslim minorities—between one sixth and one fifth of the citizenry—that are normally restive, often violent.6  Those violent elements, moreover, are able to find shelter within these two Muslim communities.   Both countries also face terrorist attacks by home grown and foreign Islamists, and both have fought defensive wars against countries claiming to carry the flag of Islam.  Islamists might call the United States the “great Satan,” but there likely are no two countries in the world that they are intent on destroying and turning into Muslim theocracies more than Israel and India.

The third factor follows from the second:  parochial disputes between the two countries and those who claim to represent Islam.  I have called Kashmir “India’s West Bank,” because many would sacrifice both territories on the altar of realpolitik in land-for-peace formulae that few believe will bring genuine peace.  As P. V. Indiresan noted:

    Ostensibly, property disputes, in Palestine, Kashmir and elsewhere are the justification for Islamic terrorism. Will peace be established if Palestinians are given the territory they want and Kashmir is handed over to Pakistan? It is more than likely that such concessions will only whet the appetite of Islamic fundamentalists.7

Yet, the pressure to do both is growing.  Just as Judea and Samaria8 once had large Jewish populations, Kashmir was once home to large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs.  Over time, those peoples were violently uprooted, allowing advocates for territories cleansed of all three to claim that their position only reflects the will of the people (now) living there; therefore, they claim, any nation calling itself democratic must support it.

The similarities do not end there.  The West Bank abuts Israel, is a terror hub, and is otherwise surrounded by a Muslim ummah that has shown no willingness to stop its elements with maximalist designs; the same for India-abutting Kashmir.  Moreover, both sets of terrorists have a penchant for hiding among local Muslim populations then, capitalizing on the collateral damage it insures, find allies to demand that the Indian army in Kashmir and the IDF in the West Bank be handcuffed in protecting their people from these deadly threats.9  As a result, political authorities in both countries have at times decided to exercise restraint even in the face of murderous attacks.

In this changed geo-political landscape the Israel-India relationship has blossomed in hitherto unseen ways; most obviously in the military and security fields, with special attention to the Islamist threat.  For almost a decade, Israel was India’s second largest defense supplier until 2009 when it became the largest.  This is more significant than at first blanch.  Russia (nee the Soviet Union) was previously India’s main supplier of military hardware and maintained that position even after it collapsed as an international superpower.  The Indian military was powered by Russian weapons and had hosted Russian military advisors and instructors for decades.  Its decline as a reliable supplier provided the major impetus for India to seek a new trading partner. 

According to an unnamed Indian official, the “turning point… was the Al Qaida-aligned attack on Mumbai in November 2008.”  Despite undisputed evidence pointing to Pakistan as the source, India was unable to retaliate for the 150 people killed, which “highlighted India's weakness in air and naval surveillance.”  Turning to Israel to rectify the situation, India bought state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries’ EL/M-2083 radar system valued at $600 million.  It would “be deployed along the Pakistani border.”10  The Mumbai attack also made it clear that contemporary India has far more in common with Israel than with Russia.11  Israel and India have now moved beyond the earlier stage of one-way military trade to joint projects in developing both offensive and defensive weapons.

Beyond the military, many cultural points of similarity have emerged since the lid was taken off the India-Israel relationship.  India had replaced Turkey as the major Israeli tourist destination, even before the latter’s open move into the Islamist camp.  “That Israelis feel an instinctive affinity for India should perhaps not be surprising,” noted Martin Sherman, who added that India’s “history is virtually devoid of anti-Semitism.”12  That cannot be overestimated for Jews.  It seems that almost everywhere we travel, we find ourselves walking on territory that has been watered by the blood of our people; but not in India.  I observed this for myself in Rishikesh, the holy Indian city in the Himalayan foothills.  There large numbers of young Israelis have come to drink in the spirituality offered there and in the nearby city of Haridwar. 

All is not well, however, partly due to complex international relations and partly due to domestic Indian politics.  For instance, in 2009, India voted “yea”  on a United Nations resolution that endorsed the now-discredited Goldstone Report, which could result in indictments of Israeli leaders before the International Criminal Court.13  The vote reflected Indian political reality; viz., that politicians will be ever mindful of how their actions might alienate the country’s significant Muslim vote.  Thus, Israel said it was “disappointed” by the Indian action, but left it at that.  More recently, Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil publicly supported Syria’s claims in its dispute with Israel over the Golan Heights.  While it was highly inappropriate for Patil to inject herself into the bi-lateral dispute, it probably represented little more than her toadying approach to foreign relations rather than anything of substance.  It also reflects India’s traditional alliances and its officials’ fear of jeopardizing its extensive trade and foreign receipts from the Gulf States.14  Thus, Israel’s response was muted.   

Like its counterparts elsewhere, India’s mainstream has an almost knee-jerk response to any news item on the Middle East, condemning Israel and uncritically accepting the Arab position—even if that position is ultimately contrary to Indian interests.  An editorial in The Hindu about Israel’s 2009 war against terrorists in Gaza was typical.  It claimed Israel “massacred 40 Palestinians” (factually incorrect and inflammatory by intent) and accused Israel of a “potential war crime” (never proven and a well-worn anti-Israel talking point).  In the midst of its screed, The Hindu never once mentioned the unprovoked and indiscriminate Arab attacks on Israeli civilians that prompted Israel’s defensive action; nor did it connect those attacks to similar unprovoked attacks on Indian citizens to which the Indian government (like Israel) sometimes responds.15  The Economic Times was guilty of the same hyperbole when it screeched that Israel’s 2010 attack on the terrorist-inspired and funded Gaza flotilla was “nothing short of an act of piracy, of state terrorism.” It also termed it “shameful” and “criminal” without ever mentioning the flotilla’s deliberate and offensive aims or its proven terror links.16 

The prevailing anti-Israel sentiment on Indian campuses frequently manifests itself in anti-Israel attacks when I speak on campuses.  Those who are not trying to disrupt my address are trying to hijack its agenda to an anti-Israel one.  Elsewhere, Indian university students consistently report that many professors push the standard anti-Israel narrative as if it was objective truth; and while most campuses offer Arab or Islamic studies, they virulently reject any classes on Judaism, Jewish history, or Israel from other than an ideological and anti-Israel perspective.17 

For these elites, their international counterparts rather than their fellow Indians comprise their reference group.  Their enforced political correctness serves overarching philosophies rather than the interests of their Indian nation.  Similarly, older line politicians see Europe as their reference group.  Many cling to an outdated Nehru-era philosophy that views Israel as an arm of the “imperialist west,” and ignores today’s imperialist power:  radical Islam.18 

There are, however, signs of a growing disconnect between the elites’ anachronistic policies and a growing pro-Israel sentiment among the people.  Amitabh Tripathi, founder of the South Asia Forum, has been working for years to help build a strong India-Israel relationship.  He contends that India’s future is with Israel’s in a principles fight against a singular terrorist threat; and he believes that this realization is taking hold among the generation of Indians several decades removed from the old assumptions that drove Indian policy during the Cold War years.  As one journalist for a major Indian news outlet told me, "there is something of a generation gap between the [established and generally older] editors and publishers" and today’s younger professionals. 19  The disconnect he and others told me, exists in part because of the fast pace at which realities and relationships have changed. 

In 2008, I met with numerous Indian journalists who wanted to speak out against the prevailing position that is enforced in their newsrooms.  They offered me their candid opinions about the “media's leftist bias, the center-left government, and the severity of the Islamist threat facing their country.”20  They worked for major newspapers and broadcast channels; English and Hindi-language outlets; purely Indian companies, and some based internationally.  Many of them had shown no fear of dangerous situations if that is what it took to get a story.  Yet, to a man they said they "would surely be sacked" if their editors or colleagues heard those candid opinions.  Thus, we met in out of the way hotels, coffee shops, and other inconspicuous places, and they spoke on conditions of anonymity.  They said that for India’s very survival, it must enter into “a strong alliance with Israel and the United States” against the Islamist and communist terrorists” victimizing its citizens regularly.  They expressed frustration at the slow progress they see in that regard and attribute it to “vote bank politics.” 

The key to maintaining that generational momentum is continued effort to counteract the restricted information and perspectives that would be available to large constituencies otherwise; and Tripathi has engaged in that sort of activism on at least two fronts.  He has expanded that effort to reach non-English speakers by starting Lokmanch, a Hindi-language web site that offers original and translated pieces on Israel, the struggle to defeat Islamist terror and extremism, US policy and President Barack Obama, and the need for a strong Israel-India relationship.  “The web site is only the first step,” he said.  “Small, local papers publish in huge numbers and they are not part of the mainstream media.  They are just as frustrated with things as we are.” That has taken him across India to several villages and smaller localities where he has been able to make that wider range of information accessible to the new publics.  Others are engaged in similar efforts to broaden the information sources available to Indians.

Similarly, numerous pro-Israel groups have helped galvanized students.  Delhi University’s 2010 Student Union elections reflected the effort with students of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP, student wing of the right-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party) winnning three of four posts, including the presidency.21  Over the past several years, I have spoken to students and faculty at numerous Indian universities and found a consistent hunger on the part of students for information about Israel.   Students pepper me with questions about Israeli technology and life in general, but the most frequent question is:  “How has Israel defeated the terrorists arrayed against it, and how can India learn from their example.”22  In one 2008 class of more than two dozen journalism students, only one openly supported the Arab cause.  After a civil exchange of ideas and information, the student maintained his stance but expressed a desire for more information from varied sources:  for principled debate over charges and counter-charges.  Here, too, the key is organized efforts to expand the range of information available to students.

No such effort would be successful, however, unless its substance was compelling.  Thus, ultimately strengthened relations with Israel depend on the actions of Israelis themselves.  In addition to the security assistance, military cooperation, and cultural ties noted above.  Israel has also provided grass roots development assistance.  For instance, since 2001, its Rural Development Organization, with the goal of empowering India’s rural poor, has produced schools, income generating projects, and environmental efforts, and trained locals to pursue the program without Israeli involvement.  It also sent emergency teams to help Indian victims of a major earthquake that year and provided aid to victims of other disasters natural and man-made.  Israel continues to maintain programs to improve medical care and agricultural technologies in rural India. 

Over the years, I have shared public podiums and other venues with Israeli officials in India; and have been struck by their painstaking efforts to respect the reality of their hosts’ political and other predicaments.  In a world where most nations and entities either criticize India for the often ambiguous actions that result from domestic and international conflicts or attempt to take advantage of them; it might just be the genuine respect by Israelis that ultimately convinces Indian officialdom that their best interests lay in a strong India-Israel alliance.  
Notes :

[1] Martin Sherman,India and Israel : Strategic Bedfellows,” Israpundit, November 9, 2010
.[2] Unless otherwise specified, “India ” and “Israel” refer to the two modern nation-states established in1947 and 1948 respectively. Ancient Israel and India had relations extending back at least 2500 years.
[3] The USSR voted in favor of the Jewish State’s creation, and Communist Czechoslovakia was Israel’s primary arms source in its 1948 War of Independence. Otherwise, however, the communist bloc took a hard anti-Israel stance, especially after the 1967 Six Day War.
[4] Richard L. Benkin, “An India-Israel-United States Alliance: The Last Great Hope for Humanity.” Arvind Ghosh Memorial Lecture, Chicago November 1, 2008 .Also see Richard L. Benkin, “Nehru, Obama, and U.S. Support for Pakistan ,” UPI Asia May 11, 2009
[5] Op. cit., India-Israel-United States Alliance.
[6] The population figures for Israel exclude the disputed territories. It includes pre-1967 Israel plus all of Jerusalem , which was restored as Israel’s capital in 1967. Jerusalem was divided for 19 years between 1948 and 1967 when Jordanian troops occupied the eastern part of the city. In comparison, Germany’s re-united capital, Berlin , was divided for 45 years between 1945 and 1990, but no one suggested that the division was somehow natural or right.
[7] P. V. Indiresan, Dealing with Terror,” The Hindu, September 15, 2001 (four days after 9/11).
[8] Judea and Samaria are the historical names for the territory today called “the West Bank ” The West Bank is a new name for these ancient lands. Jordan gave it that name to designate it as a Jordanian province after its troops captured it in 1948.
[9] Richard L. Benkin, “Op Ed Calling India Pariah State odd Choice for Israeli Publication,” South Asia Forum, October 14, 2010.
[10] “End of an era:Israel replaces Russia as India's top military supplier,” World Tribune,March 25, 2009 It should be noted that World Tribune is an independent outlet of seasoned professionals with a record of solid reporting on international events.
[11] While victimized by Islamist terrorists on the Chechnya issue, Russia has not been besieged as continuously as India and Israel; nor has it taken a firm stand against radical Islam, while Israel is arguably the leader in that fight.
[12] Martin Sherman, “Strategic Bedfellows,” Reform Judaism, Winter 2010/5771, p.46.
[13] The so-called Goldstone Report was the report on a UN investigation of the 2009 Gaza War. Most objective analysts (including the US Congress) and even some of its participants have noted the report’s anti-Israel bias.
[14] See Samir Pradhan, “India’s Economic and Political Presence in the Gulf: A Gulf Perspective, in Gulf Research Center, India’s Growing Role in the Gulf Implications for the Region and the United States, 2009; pp. 15-39. Also, “Patil lauds role of Indian expatriates in development of India , UAE,” The Indian News, November 22, 2010
[15] “Facing up to Gaza Truths, The Hindu, February 7, 2010.
[16] “Israel’s act of piracy,” The Economic Times, June 2, 2010.
[17] These comments came from personal experiences with students and faculty at several Indian campuses in the North and Northeast.
[18] Subhash Kapila, “India’s Payback Time to Israel, South Asia Analysis Group, Paper No. 442, April 10, 2002.
[19] Richard L. Benkin, “Indian Conservatives Struggle to Build Alternative Media,” American Thinker, May 31, 2008.
[20] Their comments and those which follow were made in personal conversations during 2008.
[21] “ABVP Wins Delhi University Elections 2010,” http://www.highereducationindia.com, September 4, 2010.
[22] The cited incidents occurred from 2008 through 2010 at several universities in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.


Pakistan’s Perception of India-Israel Relationship

                                                                                               Karamatullah K. Ghori

Former Pakistan ambassador 

(After joining the Pakistan Foreign Service in 1966, served in various diplomatic posts at New York, Buenos Aires, Manila, Kuwait, Tokyo and Beijing. He became ambassador to Algeria, Mali and Mauritania in 1988, and thereafter served, successively, as Pakistan’s ambassador to Kuwait (immediately after the 1991 Gulf War), Iraq, Turkey and Macedonia. He also represented Pakistan at a number of regional and international conferences.  He took early retirement from service to settle down in Canada in September 2000.  He started writing columns on international and current affairs in 1964 for Dawn. He also writes, regularly, for several Urdu and English newspapers and journals of North America. He is an accomplished Urdu poet. As a poet he  believes in beauty in brevity. He is  also a short-story writer, in both Urdu and English and has published collections in both languages.)

The most enduring aspect of Pakistan’s foreign policy at both regional and international levels is that it has always been India-centric. But this ‘consistency’  of a weird kind is not without foundations; there is a historical perspective to it, though many, for the sake of convenience or other considerations, tend to overlook and disregard the thread of history running, immutably, through the entire spectrum of 63 years of a roller-coaster relationship between India and Pakistan.

It started as a blow-back of the partition of India, the Great Divide that was accompanied by one of history’s greatest migrations of people across the newly laid-out frontiers of India and Pakistan. But it was not a simple migration of peoples across new barriers; the mayhem and blood-letting-with-impunity that went in tandem with that epic sundering made it a baptism of fire for the newly founded dominions of the British Commonwealth.

The bloodied genesis of Pakistan instilled in its people and leaders a congenital fear of India, the larger component of the truncated Sub-continent of South Asia. Some of the actions of the Indian government—taken obviously as a knee-jerk response to the vivisection of India and without much serious thought of their fallout on relations with Pakistan—added to this psychological complex of Pakistan. Holding back the transfer of funds to Pakistan from the exchequer of undivided India and foot-dragging on the sharing of military stores with the junior dominion was regarded, rightly or wrongly, in Pakistan as a kind of unwarranted arm-twisting of the weaker entity by India.

The callous murder of Mahatma Gandhi—the saint who had interceded with great moral force with the Indian leadership of the day to get Pakistan its fair share of funds and arsenal—at the hands of a Hindu extremist was seen in Pakistan as evidence of India being consumed by right-wing fanaticism, if not paranoia. The use of force by India to wrest control of the larger segment of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir provided more grist to the mills of Pakistan’s growing fear of India as a power determined to undermine its sovereign existence.

Pakistanis, to date, have made little amends to their perception that the agenda of Pakistan’s creation would remain half-achieved and only half-fulfilled as long as the people of Indian-administered Kashmir were not given their right to choose between allegiance to India or Pakistan.

Yet another early cause of mounting concern against India’s intentions against Pakistan was served to the Pakistanis by what was described in India’s official parlance as ‘police action’ to subdue the largest princely state of India, Hyderabad Deccan. It was a transparently-unconvincing euphemism to describe as police action what was seen starkly as blatant use of military power. The cession of Hyderabad Deccan was a great psychological shock to the Pakistanis, for it was the Nizam of Hyderabad who had literally saved the fledgling state of Pakistan from early bankruptcy when India was sitting tight over the funds due to Pakistan under the partition scheme. It instilled fear among the Pakistanis, including the harassed policy makers of the young state, that Indian policies were calculated to undermine and undo the moorings of Pakistan as a sovereign entity.

So Pakistan was launched on the stage of inter-state relations carrying a big load of baggage on its shoulders; it was a baggage of fear that haunted the denizens of the infant state about the designs and intents of its much bigger neighbour.

In reaction to what was conceived by its intelligentsia as well as power brokers as a huge handicap, Pakistan’s foreign policy became a policy of reaction—intentionally or unintentionally—to India and its policies on the global stage. Fear of being drowned under the current of an India in spate dictated, largely, the course of Pakistan’s foreign policy. To the dismay of many a Pakistani intellectuals that reactionary course has not run out of steam, to date.

It can be argued with conviction that a reactionary policy is never a good policy format. The problem is worse compounded when the format, as in the case of Pakistan, may have been continually pursued, in one form or another, for well over 6 decades. But that is more or less the case with Pakistan’s India-centric perception of the outside world and its reaction to challenges thrown at it in the process.

Apart from blind-siding the evolution of Pakistan’s foreign relations, the one-dimensional nature of it has spawned a political culture that has not, to date, been instrumental in, or helpful for, the development of a genuinely democratic polity in Pakistan. There are, of course, other factors and elements responsible for Pakistan’s wayward growth as an off-again-on-again democracy; the hogging and monopolizing of its politics by the rich and powerful feudal gentry being one of them.

However, the most worrying off-shoot of Pakistan’s endemic fear of an India bent on undoing it, or weakening it to the extent where it may be forced to subsist as a vassal of India, has been the catalyst for the rise of Pakistan’s army as a major power-broker and a regular—obtrusive or unobtrusive—player on the country’s political stage.

It is not the intent or scope of this paper to dilate on the role Pakistan’s powerful military has played—and according to most observers still continues to play—in shaping the overall complexion of its domestic and external policies. But no discussion of Pakistan’s policy in regard to India, in the strictly bilateral context, or in the context of regional or international policy projections would be complete without mentioning the central role the Pakistan army has played over such a long period of time. And it is not over, yet, by any means, or is likely to become irrelevant in any foreseeable future.

Fear of India was used by Pakistan’s ambitious feudal barons as a rallying call to gather the people behind them. It spawned chauvinism, especially in the province of Punjab which, on the strength of its majority population and economic clout, has dominated Pakistan’s political fortunes since the demise of the country’s eastern wing. Many a political pundit don’t shy away from arguing that the truncation of Pakistan—that resulted in the birth of Bangladesh in 1971—was engineered by Punjab to force the majority Bengali population of East Pakistan out of reckoning and usurp that role for itself. But that debate, too, is beyond the scope of this paper.

However, much more than augmenting the fortunes of feudal barons, the fear of subversion by India became the bedrock for the rise of Pakistan’s unduly privileged and powerful army. The country’s fragile frontiers had to be secured and made impregnable against a rapacious India determined to undo Pakistan from its hinges, ran the argument in favour of building a powerful armed forces far beyond the country’s limited economic resources. ‘Defence- of- the- country- above- everything- else’ became the mantra to dull and scotch any critique against allocating to the army extraordinary resources so that it may never be starved of them. Priority for economic and social development was made secondary to the needs of the army. It didn’t bother the policy makers or leaders that stagnation in the country’s socio-economic sectors could be a recipe for disaster.

Pakistan aligned itself with the west-engineered defence pacts and alliances—in the throes of the Cold War—largely because it was felt that it could defend itself against India with greater facility and confidence with the help of its ‘allies,’ besides ensuring a source of weapons in order to beef up its defences against India. It was also hoped that US, Pakistan’s principal mentor under its defence agreements, would also help Pakistan in forcing India to relent on the prickly Kashmir dispute. That US didn’t prove to be much of a help on this account—and has lately thrown up its hands completely—has been one of the sour notes in Islamabad’s relations with Washington. But that is beside the point as far as this paper is concerned.

Pakistan’s perception of Israel has a historical context too. However, unlike its overall view of India that is steeped entirely in the context of the history of the South Asian Sub-continent, the context in Israel’s case has Pan-Islamism ruling the roost.

Not many students of the Pakistan Movement—or what is in common parlance known as the struggle for the attainment of rights of Muslims of India—would be able to recall, today, that in the thick of the battle for securing the political rights of Muslims of India, their main representative body, the Muslim League, had a very powerful sense of voicing its concern for the rights of the Arabs of the then British Mandated territory of Palestine, too.

By the same token, even many Pakistanis wouldn’t be able to recall the historical fact that on that epochal day, March 23, 1940, when the Pakistan Resolution was adopted at the All India Muslim League’s Convention in the city of Lahore, the League, from that very platform and podium, also adopted a resolution affirming its fullest support for the attainment of national rights of the indigenous Arabs of the British-controlled Palestine.

Under the banner of the Muslim League, Muslims of India had kept their ears plugged to whatever had been going on in the British-administered Palestine since the end of World War I. The Khalifat Movement, in which Mahatma Gandhi was an enthusiastic participant, had exponentially raised awareness among the Muslims of India of the plight and suffering of Muslims of the Middle East and erstwhile Ottoman Empire under the victorious European powers. The Indian Muslims couldn’t save the khilafat because the Turks under Mustafa Kemal Pasha had themselves decided to undo it. Therefore, hobbled by their sense of loss in the Khilafat Movement, the Muslims of India were all the more keen to do something for the emancipation of their Muslims brethren in other places.

Palestine was a special case in point, for it was there that Britain, the imperial power mandated to control that historical territory—with the Third Holiest Muslim shrine of Bait-ul-maqdas located there in Jerusalem—was embarked on a course calculated to harm the interests and national rights of its original Arab people. Under its avowed objective to help create a Jewish homeland in Palestine, enshrined in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Imperial Britain was turning a blind eye, if not implicitly assisting it, to a massive and well-orchestrated influx of European Jews, under the aegis of the World Zionist movement, into Palestine. According to Britain’s own records, 164,000 Jews had entered Palestine as immigrants between 1933 and 1936. In the five-year period of 1931-36, the Jewish population of Palestine had risen from 175,000 at its beginning to 370,000 by its end, thus augmenting the Jewish content in the territory’s overall population to 27 % as against just 17 % five years ago.

The Muslims of India had been watching with alarm the intensive campaign underway in Palestine to dispossess its original Arab inhabitants of their ancestral land and give its keys, instead, to European Jews who have never had a title to it before. Imperial Britain, the tormentor of Muslims of India, was fully complicit in that cloak-and-dagger operation going on unabashedly in Palestine. It was exercising its mandated prerogative, in violation of its terms, to subvert the rights of the Palestinians. And when they rose in revolt, in 1936, against its unjust authority, they were put down and massacred with brute force. Thousands of the Palestinian men and women had been butchered in cold blood by British army and police by the end of the uprising in 1939.

All these stories of British brutality and Jewish intrigues were known to the Muslims of India. They could relate to their Palestinian brethren in more ways than one.

It wasn’t just an awareness induced by an acute sense of Islamic solidarity, which made it obligatory for them to feel the pain and anguish of the Arab population of Palestine. What hurt the sensitivities of the Indian Muslims even more was that the Arabs of Palestine were being reduced to second class citizens in a land where they have had their roots for centuries. The Muslims of India had likewise been targeted by the British suzerain power after the 1857 movement to get rid of the British yoke. But, for the sake of argument, the Muslims of India had never been the majority population in India, whereas Arabs of Palestine had always been the majority in that land.

It was thus quite natural and understandable for the All India Muslim League to voice its utmost concern for the suffering of their Palestinian brethren from the same podium they had chosen to unfurl the standard of struggle for the attainment of the rights of Muslims of India. To the League leaders, they and their Palestinian brothers were waging the same battle at two different fronts: Muslims of India were up against the British Raj and Hindu opposition to any demand for a separate home for them; the Palestinians were fighting British imperialism and the Zionist movement of Europe that sought to dispossess them in their own land. There couldn’t be a more convincing case of two brothers waging an epic and identical struggle.

No surprise that an independent Pakistan, in the infancy of its own birth, opposed the creation of Israel tooth and nail. The long and extremely well-articulated speeches in the UN General Assembly by Pakistan’s first Foreign Minister, the distinguished jurist Sir Mohammad Zafarullah Khan, are still regarded as the finest ever in defence of the Palestinian rights and opposition to the illegal Jewish entity conjured up out of the Palestinian lands.

Pakistan couldn’t stop the birth of Israel. However, it was goaded by its sense of solidarity with the Palestinians and the Arabs to not recognize what it regarded as an illegitimate state. It has persisted in that denial to date and refused to entertain any idea of recognizing Israel or entering into formal relations with it. Such is Pakistan’s opposition to the Jewish entity that until not too long ago, all Pakistani passports, except diplomatic ones, were stamped with a caveat: ‘Not valid for travel to Israel and Taiwan’.

A broad swath of Pakistanis of all stripes and persuasions viscerally subscribe to the notion that the oppressed Palestinians bravely soldiering on for emancipation from the Israeli yoke is a continuum of the Pakistan freedom movement, and thus deserving of Pakistan’s fullest and uncompromising moral support. They also believe that until the Palestinians and Kashmiris of the Indian-administered Kashmir attain their freedoms the agenda of Pakistan, as conceived by its founding fathers, will remain unfinished and incomplete.

One may differ with this Pakistani mind-set to any extent possible but that is exactly the scenario in which Pakistan now finds itself confronted with the modern reality of its arch-rival and estranged neighbour, India, cozying up to Israel.

Pakistan, of course, has no legal or moral right to voice its concern about the rapidly budding camaraderie between two countries that are sources of concern to it in so many ways. However, it has every right to take stock of the challenges this putative entente poses to its territorial integrity, its sovereignty and its place in regional and international connotations.

Shorn of all sophistry, anything that portends to bind two of Pakistan’s major adversaries into a relationship of close co-operation was bound to raise alarm and set off the bells ringing in its corridors of power.

This current phase of Indo-Israeli camaraderie is a development of recent vintage. It started less than 2 decades ago when India entered into formal diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. This upward movement in Indo-Israeli graph coincided with the lowest ebb in the fortunes of the Muslim world—of which Pakistan has always regarded itself as an inseparable and integral part. The Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait, in the summer of 1990 had dealt a near-fatal blow to the concept of Muslim Ummah’s unity and brotherhood. The dream of the Arabs being one nation, from the Atlas Mountain to the sands of Iraq, was shattered and lay in ruin. The swift induction of US military power into the theatre opened up by Saddam Hussain’s monumental folly allowed the expansionist lobby in US, backed up by erstwhile imperialist powers of Europe,  to get much closer to realizing its dream of controlling the energy resources of the Middle East and using them to make the 21st century an ‘American Century.’

Pakistan was not the only country in the Islamic camp to view the unfolding drama with utmost dismay. Many others in the Islamic world interpreted the Gulf War of 1991 as paving the way for Israel’s emergence as the regional policeman and watch-dog of American imperial interests. What was left among the Arab states to resist Israel, they asked. Egypt, the most powerful Arab state, had been neutralized and taken out of any reckoning in as far as standing up to a militarist Israel was concerned. Anwer Sadat had happily agreed to castrate his country’s power in return for dollops of economic assistance from Washington. Egypt entering into diplomatic relations with Israel had sapped the Arab resistance to Israel at its core.

Next to Egypt, Iraq was the only other Arab state with the potential to pose a credible ‘threat’ to Israel. It possessed the resources and manpower for such a role. However, Saddam Hussain’s aggrandizement against a weak neighbour like Kuwait had exposed his flanks to those western powers that had been lying in wait for just such an opportunity.

The breach of Arab solidarity and Israel’s rising stature as the regional policeman in the Middle East were troubling developments for Pakistan in their own right.

Pakistan’s own co-ordinates, both external as well as domestic, were not in the best of shapes either.

Domestically, the country had just, barely, put paid to the long reign of General Ziaul Haq’s 11-year-long military rule. But the newly-crowned democrats, like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, were making a hash of democracy and testing the patience of the people and, more importantly, of Pakistan’s well-entrenched ruling elite—the so-called ‘establishment’—to its limit.

In the external context, the decade-long Afghan War against the Soviets had ended with the ignominious expulsion of the invaders. However, that remarkable feat had brought little relief for Pakistan, which now was confronted with rank instability in Afghanistan quickly spawned by the internecine conflict that was consuming Afghanistan. From the smoke of that virtual civil war were to rise the rag-tag Taliban with their nihilistic agenda carrying in its womb further complications and challenges for Pakistan.

According to the Pakistani interpretation of India getting into bed with Israel, the move was calculated to add to Pakistan’s woes and concerns. After all, what could be a worse scenario for Pakistan than its arch-rival and old adversary warming up to a country which was a pariah not only to Pakistan but also to virtually the entire Islamic bloc.

Pakistan had another axe to grind with Israel on the highly sensitive issue of its nuclear ambitions, for Israel had been waging a relentless propaganda offensive against Pakistan’s alleged ‘Islamic bomb.’ Pakistanis felt themselves entitled to suspect that a powerful motive for India to get in league with Israel—whose anti-Pakistan rant on the nuclear issue had the fullest backing and support of the western world—could be none other than aimed at isolating Pakistan and drive it in a corner.

However, the most powerful reason for Pakistan to suspect the budding Indian-Israeli friendship was in the context of Kashmir, specifically in relation to the popular uprising of the Kashmiris—often described, romantically, as the Kashmiri Initfada—which had been in spate since 1989 and was at its peak at the time of India entering into formal relations with Israel. Pakistan subscribed to its own belief that the intensity of the Kashmiri backlash  against continued Indian occupation of their land had unnerved the Indians and cast the die for them to run to the Israelis for succor. The regular flow of young Israeli ‘tourists’ into the valley, on the heels of the bubbling entente seemed to lend credence to the Pakistani suspicion that Israeli intelligence agents, with decades of experience in crushing down the hapless Palestinians in the Occupied Territory, were infiltrating Kashmir and providing their expertise to quell the Kashmiri Intifada.

The Indians were, no doubt, motivated by self-interest and desire to beef up their foreign policy options. India had finally said good-bye to decades of experimentation with a socialist economy that had brought nothing stagnation. The end of the Cold War and the Russian debacle at the end of it had freed the Indians of their ideological fascination with centralized economic management—which had proved to be the bane of the now-defunct Soviet Union. The Indian economy was entering the phase of open markets and free flow of capital. It needed not only new capital but also latest technology to put it in top gear. US were the obvious choice to get close to for the best inputs on both counts. But the Indians had had years of less-than-ideal relations with Washington and needed a hefty push to kick-start a new phase. What better middleman to fit the bill than Israel with its supra-influential, effective and powerful lobbies ruling the roost in US.

There was hardly anything to worry as far as Arab reaction to the new Indian move was concerned. The Arabs had been pulverized and were in complete disarray in the wake of the Gulf War. An added incentive for India was that some Arab countries themselves were in various phases of making overtures to Israel under intense pressure from Washington. The most important of all, Yasser Arafat and his PLO were embarked on a course—which was soon to prove futile and unproductive—to bury their hatchets with Israel and take, instead, to a peace offensive.

Of course the Indians were going against the grain of their founding fathers. Mahatma Gandhi had been openly opposed to the creation of Israel and Pundit Nehru, a socialist, liberal and secular, to his finger tips, had kept Israel at arm’s length as long as he was at the helm of India. But the Nehru era was now a matter of history. Pragmatism, if not exactly expediency, was the name of the new game.

For Pakistan there was another worrying symptom coming increasingly into focus in regard to the domestic developments, taking shape concomitantly with this sea-change in foreign policy orientation of India, in its political landscape. The rise of BJP as a political force articulating the political philosophy of Hindu extremism and chauvinism was as much a cause of concern to Pakistan as India’s flirtation with Israel. Both aspects pointed to India inexorably drifting away from the moorings its founding fathers had laid down for it. However, it didn’t seem to occur to the Pakistani policy framers that they had themselves steered Pakistan so agonizingly far from what the founder of Pakistan had extolled them to do.

The Pakistanis didn’t have too long to wait to see the banal influence of BJP-fed Hindu militancy gaining the better of the Nehru-era secularism of India. The demolition of the historic Babri Mosque, on December 6, 1992, proved their worst nightmare true about the ascendancy in India of Hindutva, with all its known and unknown permutations. The politically-astute verdict of the Allahabad High Court, only weeks before the 18th anniversary of that seminal event, proves the snowballing Pakistani perception that Indian secularism is rapidly yielding ground to the macabre ideology of Hindutva. The charges laid against an outspoken Arundhati Roy—on the heels of the court verdict—for her critique of the Indian military repression in Kashmir simply provides more grist to the Pakistani mills that India is being sucked into the vortex of Hindu extremism as much as Israel already is a Zionist-led state where the Palestinian minority is in the category of second-class citizens with few rights.

The cataclysm of 9/11 came as a boon to India and Israel and a bane to Pakistan.

The apocalyptic event opened up a whole new vista for the right-wing proponents of the American Century, with Bush arrogating to himself and his country the ‘right’  to intervene preemptively wherever in the world US interests and security seemed to be threatened or challenged. ‘Security trumps everything else,’ became the mantra for those believing in the military might of US dictating priorities to friends and enemies alike. Security concerns of an old ally and surrogate like Israel, and a new ally like India, were put on par with the concerns of US. This mind-set authorized the authors of the new global agenda to brazenly declare all resistance movements of oppressed people, like the Palestinians groaning under a brutal Israeli occupation, and the Kashmiris resisting continued Indian occupation of their land, as terrorists.

Pakistan, by implication, was put on the defensive for its alleged involvement in the Kashmiri people’s resistance against the Indian military and political control of their land. This was despite the fact that Pakistan’s power-drunk military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, had pawned Pakistan to the Bush ‘war on terror’ as its front-line soldier.

That’s more or less the case prevailing today in the trilateral context in which Pakistan finds itself pitted hopelessly at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the two ‘real allies’ of US in marked contrast to the make-believe ally that Pakistan is—and has been so—to Washington.


Pakistan is a front-line ally of US in the ongoing ‘war on terror’ which Obama has re-christened as the ‘long war.’ Over the 9 years since Musharraf took the blind leap into the cauldron of Bush’s war, Pakistan has suffered massively from the fallout of this war-with-no-end-in-sight.’  It has lost more soldiers and officers in waging a war within its own borders at US behest than the combined losses of the 28-member states of NATO whose soldiers are involved into various degrees of combat in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s homeland is in a horrible mess, blighted by acts of terrorism and suicide bombings which have become almost a routine in the country. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed and maimed in these barbarous acts. With its political fortunes in the hands of a corrupt cabal of robber-barons masquerading as political leaders, the Pakistani nation is teetering on the brink of total collapse and bankruptcy, not only of its economy but, more troubling than that, also of its moral values and its civic cohesion.

And yet Pakistan is a Washington-faithful ally whose loyalty and fealty is not trusted by the Americans. The constant refrain of the ‘master’ in what is without doubt a master-client—if not exactly master-slave—relationship, is to demand ‘more’ sacrifices from its vassal.

Pakistanis increasingly have a sense that they are being used by Washington to pull its chestnut out of the fire while no regard is shown to their sensitivities and concerns. Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty is being violated almost daily, lately, in what many decry as ‘visitations’  by unmanned Drones, whose frequency is constantly on an upswing. Hundreds of Pakistani civilians have been killed in bombing raids by these Drones against impugned terrorists. But Pakistan’s wails of protest are dismissed as ‘collateral damage’ in the war against terror.

Pakistan may be an ally for use of a better semantics only. Otherwise Pakistan is being treated as a rogue and scoundrel as much by the Obama administration as was the case with Bush. There is no ray of hope for Pakistan’s concerns on Kashmir getting an audience in Obama’s Washington, although Obama had entered the White House with a determination—based on his campaign rhetoric—to do something about getting the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India off the dead centre. Obama seemed close to delivering on his pledge when he named Richard Holbrooke as his special trouble-shooter on Afghanistan as well as on Kashmir. But the latter assignment remained still-born. Obama backed down without so much as a squeak or murmur of protest when India raised a holler against the appointment.

Since that debacle of Obama’s putative peace-making on Kashmir, Washington has refused to move a finger on Kashmir beyond platonic and pious expressions of hope that India and Pakistan would themselves find a solution to this lingering crisis through dialogue. That’s neither here nor there. Pakistanis, reading the lips of the Obama factotums are convinced that there’s no will, at all, to do anything that might displease the Indians.

Pakistanis can point to a visible pattern of being short-changed by Washington in comparison to India’s molly-coddling by Obama and his coterie of advisers. The recent, high-visibility, tour of India by President Obama is a case in point. Both the president and the first lady seemed overly anxious and eager to court India and the Indians. They put on a real feast of good public relations in India to the chagrin of the Pakistanis, not because they resented the first American couple dancing, literally, to the Indian tunes. The Pakistanis felt offended because they had been deliberately shunned and dealt out of President Obama’s 3-nation Asian safari. Pakistan was merely given a sop with the president’s vacuous promise to visit Pakistan at his convenience, sometime in the future. It was small comfort for the Pakistanis to hold on to.

Pakistan’s pleas for parity with India in the transfer of nuclear technology from US for civilian purposes find no audience in Washington. Pakistanis can detect a visible double-standard there: Israel stays far beyond any expressed concern from Washington of its well-known and burgeoning arsenal of nuclear weapons. India has been brought on a special pedestal as far as sharing of nuclear technology is concerned. But there is constant chest-beating about Pakistan’s nuclear assets and efforts to compromise them remains a priority concern of Washington.

Pakistanis suspect that what to them is an ‘unholy’ alliance between India and Israel to sabotage Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Reports have been rife, from independent western sources of an Indo-Israeli plan to ‘take out’ the main Pakistani nuclear station at Kahuta, outside Islamabad, in a blitz like the one Israel perpetrated against Iraq in 1980.

The budding co-operation in the nuclear field between Israel and India, which couldn’t be without Washington’s tacit support, is a cause of deep concern to Pakistanis of all shades and opinion. Reprehensible as the Mumbai mayhem was, by any moral standard, a powerful element in the nefarious Jihadi design to sow terror in Mumbai was, in particular, said to have been inspired by the presence of the Nariman Centre in Mumbai, which most believed was a den of intrigues and a nerve-centre of Israeli activities against Pakistan from a vantage point in its proximity.

That is more or less the perspective and the context to Pakistan’s perception and assessment of India-Israel co-operation.

Pakistani policy framers, without exception, don’t see it in a bilateral frame between two distant countries, which apparently have little historical incentive to get so close to each other, as India and Israel have over the past decade, except that they share a common aversion to Muslim states in their neighbourhood; and their camaraderie of mutual interest has been whetted, since 9/11 as the take-off point, by US’ undeclared war against the world of Islam. George W. Bush’s indiscreet comment that his war against terror was a new crusade may have been quickly finessed by his spin doctors as a slip of the tongue but the essence of it has not been lost on the Muslim world. The atrocities perpetrated in US-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan—with Abu Ghuraib and Bagram as ugly totems of power-drunk soldiers keeping the local populaces on the points of their bayonets—do hark back, in the conscience of history-buffs, to how the Crusaders had vented their fury and blood lust on the inhabitants of Muslim Jerusalem when they conquered it in 1099.

Of course India has every right and reason to expand its co-operation with Israel over any vast gamut of activities, with Pakistan having no choice but look at the gathering mass with awe or envy.

Bilateral trade between the two countries, for instance, had ballooned from a paltry $ 200 million in 2001 to a whopping $ 4.1 billion by the end of 2009. It is expected to jump three-fold to $ 12 billion in the next 5 years if a preferential trade agreement, currently in the works, is finalized.

Sky seems to be the limit for India-Israel co-operation, mushrooming into myriad fields, from atomic camaraderie to space research to rocket science et al.

From the Pakistani point of view the major cause of its concern is the inroads Israel is making into India’s defence supplies, weapons system and overall military culture.

Israel has already become the largest source of weapons to India, overtaking the once bosom-friend, Russia. Israel is also the source of hi-tech early warning aircraft (AWACS) that have joined the burgeoning fleet of the Indian Air Force. Pakistan is under no delusion when it argues that both the supplier and the supplied seek to undermine its defences, breach its security and, in the larger context, keep it guessing all the time.

But, to be realistic, there isn’t a lot of guessing to be done on Pakistan’s part. The policy planners there know that it isn’t a case of the two-some India and Israel holding Pakistan’s feet to the fire; there is also the powerful element of the US involvement—robust inducement if not active participation—which is calculated to test Pakistan at every step of the way. US is, to use a cliché, the elephant in the room when it comes to India and Israel breathing down Pakistan’s neck.

Pakistan can feel the heat utmost in the context of its role in Afghanistan where it is the front-line US ally in the war against terror, which is rightly turning out to be a very long war in Afghanistan, with Pakistan constantly on the hook. In spite of the stiff toll in blood that the Pakistan army has paid to date—and continues to, unabated—in fighting the war against the Taliban on America’s behalf, its role is still suspect in America’s eyes. Indeed Pakistan is guilty of not having reined in its religious extremists and fanatics earlier, long before they became so powerful as to challenge the writ of the state in brazen defiance.

But Pakistanis have no fancy notions about the long-term American designs in Afghanistan. Washington would like to prolong its presence in the strife-torn and perennially bleeding country, on one excuse or the other. The earliest new deadline for the withdrawal of Nato and Us troops from Afghanistan is 2014, and that too comes with strings and caveats. Therefore the blame game against Pakistan must not be relented in order to keep it occupied continually in Afghanistan. It doesn’t matter to Washington, or anyone else down the long line of Nato allies playing out their role in Afghanistan that Pakistan has already been singed in the process and is itself bleeding.

However, Pakistani policy framers know  that one day US and its allies will pull out of Afghanistan, irrespective of the outcome of the longest war these neo and former imperialists have waged anywhere in the world. But Pakistan alone will be dealing with the aftermath of this horribly miscued western adventure next door to it.

At the same time, Islamabad is well aware that US will not want to leave a vacuum in Afghanistan. It has been planning for years to have the space filled by its new trusted and long-term partner, India. The string of Indian consulates in Afghan cities close to Pakistan is meant to provide spaces to dig the heels in. Pakistan may look warily at these supposedly ‘diplomatic’  missions as eavesdropping outposts and feel nervous about them. But that’s also the purpose in setting them up: it is to keep Pakistan guessing.

Washington almost got away, in the summer of 2010, with its long-sought agenda to bamboozle Pakistan into giving transit rights to India for trade convoys to Afghanistan through its territory. Islamabad’s corrupt and incompetent rulers realized the trap they were walking into virtually at the last minute when the army sounded the alarm.

Israel, with a nod from US, is trying to sneak into Afghanistan under the Indian skirt. India is in a desperate bid to become a major player in Afghanistan with US assistance. The Israeli interest in pursuing this course is two-fold: to keep Pakistan nervous about the Israeli designs against its nuclear assets, and get ever closer to its design to give Iran a bloodied nose because that country has become an obsession for the Zionists who regard Iran as the only obstacle to their ambitions to impose their hegemony in the Middle East.

So what Pakistan sees on the cards in its Afghanistan backyard is an American plan to bequeath its legacy of geo-political domination in the region to two of its most trustworthy satraps, India and Israel. That revives for Pakistan the classical existentialist fear of facing two enemies simultaneously. Pakistan was born with the dilemma of fighting on two fronts at one and the same time. The truncation of its eastern part, in 1971, from the main body of the nation didn’t quite rid it of this congenital fear. Pakistan’s arm-chair ideologues and geo-strategic planners thought they had finally been cleansed of this cancer when the Pakistan-primed Taliban rose to power in Afghanistan. A sigh of relief was heaved; Pakistan had its back secured.

However, the American invasion of Afghanistan robbed Pakistan of its short-lived comfort. In a macabre turn of events, Pakistan is now in league with US chasing the chimera of blocking the resurgence, and return to power, of the very Taliban it had pampered two decades earlier and paved their way to power in Kabul. In other words, Pakistan is tilting at the windmills to resurrect its old dilemma of fighting at two fronts, simultaneously, at any given time, as price of its nihilistic alliance with US. Its problem is worse confounded because it knows well that US would want to supplant Pakistan’s two worst enemies to keep its dilemma alive even when the Americans may have gone, or forced out, from Afghanistan.

The Indian policy gurus might feel tempted to congratulate themselves that they, with a lot of help from their new friends or partners in Washington and Tel Aviv, have hit upon a cost-effective prescription to keep Pakistan in chains. They have barricaded Pakistan in the lap of that historically notorious ‘prickly hedge’ of Afghanistan that had severely tested the mettle of the British imperial power at its zenith.

But it still remains to be asked of the Indian policy pundits if it is a good policy to seek alliances with those, from outside the region that India shares but precious little of history with, and whose interests may, eventually, militate against India’s pristine moorings?

Yes, a Machiavellian fantasy might articulate, and nudge you in its direction, that your enemy’s enemy is, per se, well suited to become your friend. However, dictates of geography argue against such a course. In the case of India and Pakistan, geography is also robustly complemented by shared history of a thousand years. The great Indo-Gangetic culture steeped over the centuries is not only a unique legacy in its own right but it is also a wealth for both India and Pakistan that cannot be compared with anything else from another country or neighbour.  Pakistan certainly doesn’t have that kind of affinity or genuine bondage with any of its ‘brotherly’  Muslim country, though saying so may be regarded by many a zealot in Pakistan today as a sacrilege.

India, too, has no historical context to its warming up to Israel except that it may work, for a time, as a tactical ploy to keep Pakistan groping in the shadows. Israel is courting India for tactical reasons described in the foregoing. Israel’s history of the past 6 decades is enough to shed light on the harsh reality that it is friends of none, not even of its great mentor, US, which has been blindly supporting it at the expense of its relations with the 1.5 billion Muslims of the world.

It would be highly naïve and short-sighted for both India and Pakistan to squander their rich and shared legacy in an incontinent urge to drag the other in the mud. Sadly, however, what is most conspicuous by its absence at the present juncture is a serious and dedicated effort by both countries to raise the level of trust between them. Confidence-building should be the mantra guiding them but is not. Pakistan is mired in its socio-economic muck, which is entirely a creation of its own inept governance, for which its endemically corrupt ruling elite bears full responsibility. Expecting Pakistan to take a bold leap to clear the hurdles with India would be nothing but a flight of fancy. India, standing on a much firmer ground and blessed by confidence that comes only from a healthy socio-economic footing, has the onus on it to take bold initiatives to move its moribund relations with Pakistan off a dead centre.

On the contrary, however, Pakistan is being fed signals that do nothing to instill any sense of confidence but serve grist to its extremist fringe about India’s  ‘designs.’ For some time, now, it is becoming quite a normal practice for India’s vaunted and elite visiting guests, like Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain—earlier in the summer of 2010—and, lately, President Nicholas Sarkozy of France, to publicly lambast Pakistan for terrorist ‘havens’ and sanctuaries on its soil that threaten India. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany does the same while playing host to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Berlin. Pakistan seems to be given the sense by India’s new admirers, not without India’s nod of concurrence that it remains permanently in the dock. That’s no way to raise its confidence.

The habit of constantly picking on each other is invitation to untrammeled hostility between the South Asian twain of India and Pakistan. Even if unintentional, this proclivity is breeding hard-line fanaticism on both sides of the ‘divide.’ In a nihilistic one-upmanship both countries have drifted miles apart from each other and even more from the course their founding fathers had charted; they will have difficulty in recognizing what they had built were they to return to this earth one more time.

Suffice to say that the two countries owe it to their succeeding generations to desist from a self-destructive course.

The writer is a former career diplomat who retired as ambassador after 35 years in the diplomatic service of Pakistan. He can be reached at K_K_ghori@hotmail.com



                                            Ninan Koshy 

(Prof. Ninan Koshy author, political analyst and commentator based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India was Director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) from 1981-1991 and Visiting Fellow, Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School, USA, 1991-92

His books on international affairs include, The War on Terror: Reordering the World (2003), Under the Empire: India’s New Foreign Policy (2006) and (co-author) Uncle Tom’s Nuclear Cabin (2007). He contributes articles to Foreign Policy in Focus, Asiatimes online, Economic and Political Weekly, Mainstream etc.)


Mani Shankar Aiyer, member Rajya Sabha and former Minister told the Indian Express on September 25, 2010, “We have become so dependent on defence supplies from Israel that when I put up a Rajya Sabha question seeking the government to reply on whether it equated the large number of civilians killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza strip - as found by the Goldstone fact-finding team – with the killings of Hamas, the Ministry of External Affairs disallowed my question, calling it a state secret. Since when has the subject of India-Palestine relations become a state secret given the fact that (we) India were in the forefront of the Palestinian struggle”


For a long time, Mr.Aiyer, is the answer to the question. He should have known better as a former diplomat and an insider of the government. Yes, from the time India-Palestine relations were subsumed under India-Israel relations, they are a state secret. The simple reason is that India-Israel relations have always been secretive. Just before the momentous visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to New Delhi on the second anniversary of September 11, the Financial Times had this to say, “It’s one of the world’s most secretive relationships”. As for the reason of the visit, FT said “it was to be a coming out party”.

Many more parties have been held since but both sides have ensured that no light is shed on the nature of the relationship. It has remained a secret.  This is a status that has been vetted and certified by Mark Sofer, Israel’s ambassador to India in February 2008. This is what the Ambassador said, “We do have a defence relationship with India which is no secret. On the other hand, what is a secret is what the defence relationship is. And, with all respect, the secret part of it will remain a secret”.   (1)

Rahnuma Ahmed asks, “What is one to make of this? That defence and intelligence cooperation, which includes sale of high tech weapon systems and mutual access to military facilities and training, is mere surface? What lies underneath them? Something which is so hidden, so momentous that His Excellency needed to utter the word ‘secret’ four times?”  (2)

So to find out about current India-Palestine relations we have to begin with India- Israel relations and not the other way though India had relations with Palestine long before it started its romance with Israel.

India and Israel were born within months of each other. While the former became an independent state on August 15, 1947, the latter was created on May 14, 1948 by decision of the United Nations to partition British-mandated Palestine. India, which had opposed this partition, remained officially cool to the Jewish state. In May 1949 it voted against the admission of Israel into the UN. In early 1950 after recognizing the state of Israel, a visibly reluctant New Delhi allowed it to set up an ‘immigration office’  in the port city of Mumbai. This eventually morphed into a ‘trade office’ and then into a consulate.

The end of the cold war and the beginning of India’s economic reforms in the early 1990s provided the impetus as well as justification for the Indian government to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. Negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel had started under the Oslo accord. For Israel, this was a time when it was keen to expand its diplomatic contacts outside Europe and the United States, and India was an important part of this expansion. For India, heavily dependent on the now-fallen Soviet Union, Israel emerged as an important source of expertise on security issues and a growing source of advanced military technology and hardware. India’s tilt towards the United States also was an important factor.

Relations between India and Israel had begun secretively much before 1992. For the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad had become an active counterpart already by the end of the sixties. When full diplomatic relations were established, the first expansion was in intelligence contacts and then in defence and then in trade, in that order.

But the main transformation in the relations between India and Israel took place with the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) coming to power in 1998. They were cemented during the Kargil War. During the War Israel responded quickly to India’s desperate requests for arms, despite pressure from various quarters.

It was in the vacuum in technological imports and military supplies, created by sanctions on India in the wake of the nuclear tests, that Israel stepped in as India’s friend in the hour of need. Unmanned Aerial vehicles for high altitude surveillance, laser-guided systems and many other items were provided within days of the request. Jane’s Defense Weekly which gave details of the supplies, reported in March 2000 that Israeli security officers were regularly visiting the Kashmir border. Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor reported: “Israeli intelligence agencies have been intensifying their relations with Indian security apparatus and are now understood to be heavily involved in helping New Delhi combat Islamic militants in the disputed province of Kashmir”. (3). The Jerusalem Post reported on 3rd February 2003 that India was sending three battalions of nearly 3,000 Indian soldiers to Israel for specialized anti-insurgency training. Their assignment on return would be to employ newly learned techniques to stop infiltration of India by Pakistani terrorists in the contested Kashmir region, the report said.

The advantages for Israel in forging a defence alliance with India were explained by Professor Martin Sherman as follows:

The alliance with India was important for Israel as it intended to develop sea-borne defence capability. In view of the miniscule territorial dimension of Israel, its defense planners are increasingly aware of the crucial significance of the marine and the sub-marine. The vulnerability of land-based military installations grows with the acquisition of modern weaponry by other countries in the region. Strategic thinking in Israel tends to give prominence to the Indian Ocean as a location for logistical infrastructure. For the establishment and operation of such a maritime venture, cooperation with the Indian navy would be vital.”

Sherman added: “An alliance between India and Israel openly endorsed by the U.S. would create a potent stabilizing force in the region, which together with like-minded regimes such as Turkey, could contribute significantly towards facing down the force of radical extremism so hostile to American interests in Western and Central Asia.”  (4)  

The visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to New Delhi in January 2002 became an occasion to reinforce the strategic ties between India and Israel. An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said during Peres’ visit, “India finds it increasingly beneficial to learn from Israel’s experience in dealing with terrorism since Israel too has long suffered from cross-border terrorism.” (5) The spokesperson slipped into the ministry’s grave and oft-repeated error of equating the Palestinian struggle with cross-border terrorism. Unfortunately this continues to be the assumption on cooperation between India and Israel on counter-terrorism.

One major factor in the momentum of relations between India and Israel during the BJP-led regime was the close affinity between Hindutva and Zionism. As Mike Marquesee, himself a Jew wrote, “In many respects Hindutva and Zionism are natural bedfellows. Both depict the entities they claim to represent simultaneously national and religious identities. Both claim to be the sole authentic spokesperson for these entities (Hindu and Jewish). Both appeal to an affluent diaspora. But most importantly, at the moment, both share a designated enemy (Muslim terrorism)” (6)

To roll out the red carpet for Sharon in New Delhi in September 2003, within months of the US invasion of Iraq and after his famous declaration that “Arafat is our bin Laden”, clearly showed India’s approval of the role assigned to Sharon in West Asian politics by President Bush. It was known that the Iraqi invasion was closely linked to Israeli ambitions and US plans on Iran.

After the ‘regime change’ in Afghanistan, Sharon was invited to Washington to coordinate the next moves in the War on Terror – this time against Iraq. Since that time President Bush defined Israel’s military actions against Palestinians as ‘self-defence’ and Palestinian resistance as ‘terror’. Israeli commentator Levi Grinberg wrote on the role of Sharon:

“Sharon is deeply satisfied with Bush’s Middle East plan that practically means a global war managed by the ‘Busharon’ team in which Bush will play the role of the global Sheriff, imposing a new order in the Islamic states. Sharon has been nominated as the ‘regional Sheriff’ and allowed to impose a new order in his area of influence.” (7)

The Hindu commented editorially that “New Delhi has sent out wrong signals by playing host to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at this particular juncture”. During Sharon’s visit India and Israel signed a joint statement along with six agreements on environment protection, drug trafficking, visa-free travel for diplomats, and cooperation in health, education and culture. But the more important secret pacts were scrupulously kept away from public gaze and there was little reference to the burgeoning military ties.

During Sharon’s visit, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Yosef Lapid told journalists that an “unwritten and abstract’ axis had been created between Israel, India and US to combat international terrorism. “While there was no formal triangular agreement, there is mutual interest of the three countries in making the world a more secure place for all of us. There is American support for the development of the unwritten axis”, Lapid told reporters in New Delhi. “Therefore in the abstract sense we are creating such an axis”. (8) Just a few months before Sharon’s visit Brajesh Mishra, India’s National Security Adviser had made a call for a US-India-Israel axis. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee, Mishra maintained that only a ‘core’ consisting of democracies such as India, Israel and US can deal with terrorism. India, the US and Israel were ‘prime targets’, they had a ‘common enemy’  and required ‘joint action’, Mishra added. (9)

Israel and India not only exchange crucial intelligence information on what they call ‘Islamic terrorist groups’ but Israel has been ‘helping’ India to ‘fight terrorism’ in Kashmir by providing important logistical support such as specialized surveillance equipment, cooperation on intelligence gathering and joint exercises. The level of intelligence cooperation between India and Israel is more extensive and deeper than between India and the USA.  As mentioned earlier thousands of India’s special troops were trained in Israel. India primarily wanted this training in order to tackle cross-border infiltration of insurgents in Kashmir from Pakistan, as well as protecting Northeastern states from similar infiltration from neighbouring countries.

The ballast for Indo-Israel bilateral ties is provided by the defence cooperation between the two states with India emerging as Israel’s largest arms market and with Israel becoming India’s biggest arms supplier. Israel’s growing relationship with India goes a long way toward sustaining its own local defence industry, and this in turn is also a significant boost to Israel’s economy as a whole. As a result, the India-Israel defence partnership has reached a critical mass in recent years. 

It is against this backdrop that we have to assess the current relationship of India to Palestine.  It was always taken for granted that India’s support to the Palestinian cause and its friendship with the people of Palestine is an integral part of its time-tested foreign policy. It is this assumption that has been called into question now.

In 1947 India voted in the United Nations General Assembly against the partition of Palestine. In fact one of the outstanding features of the Indian national movement was its support for the Arab cause. In 1936 the All India Congress Committee (AICC) gave a statement of its position to which the Congress consistently adhered – to support the establishment of a free democratic state in Palestine. Nehru likened the Arab struggle against British imperialism in Palestine to India’s own struggle for freedom.   India was the first non-Arab state to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974. India was one of the first countries to recognize the state of Palestine in 1988.  It was in the context of the sea change in world affairs by the exit of the Soviet Union, India’s economic reforms and the Oslo accords that India established full diplomatic relations with Israel.

The PLO had started negotiations with Israel and apparently it had no objection to India upgrading its relations with India. But the PLO never thought that this would develop into a defence nexus detrimental to the cause of the Palestinians. The government of India has always claimed that its relations with Israel in no way affect its support for the Palestinian struggle for independence and statehood. But this is not true.

The Palestinian view on this was clearly articulated by Nabil Sha’ath, the Palestinian Foreign Minister, in an exclusive interview to The Hindu on the eve of Prime Minister Sharon’s visit to India. He disagreed with growing Indian efforts to coordinate anti-terrorist activities among New Delhi, Tel Aviv and Washington. “I know it is the position of some of your Ministers. First of all, I see no need to go to Israel to reach the United States. The United States is open to India. I do not think that you need that intermediary.” He added, “Israel would like to make it look as if all Palestinian resistance was terrorism. Identifying with that puts you in a position of being anti-Palestinian when there is no need to do so.”

When the Congress led UPA government came to power in 2004, there were expectations in certain quarters, including among the Left parties which supported the government, that there would be a change in the West Asia policy. These expectations were belied immediately. It was made clear that the new government would not only continue but strengthen defence and intelligence relations with Israel. In the very early days of the UPA government, Defence Minister, Pranab Mukherji stated that there would be no slowing down in the burgeoning defence ties with Israel. On Palestine the UPA appeared to be more vocal than the NDA regime in its support. India’s expression of support to Palestine was very much related to the establishment view that as long as Arafat was around, the Congress had an obligation to support him. But at no time was India ready to factor relations with Israel as adverse to the Palestinian interests. 

The apparent improvement of relations of Palestine with Arab countries like Syria and Kuwait, after the exit of Yasser Arafat from the scene, was used by India as the pretext for further political and military contacts with Israel. Arafat’s death appeared to have removed the ambiguity about the sense of direction of India’s West Asia policy. There seemed to be no longer any special obligation on the part of India towards the Palestinians. The primacy of bilateral relations with Israel was affirmed. There was a flurry of high level visits from Israel and a series of meetings between Indian and Israeli defence officials immediately after Arafat’s death. The timing was significant.

The lukewarm approach of the Indian government to the Palestinian struggle became clear during the visit of the new President of Palestine Mahmud Abbas. It was a low-profile visit and did not reflect any enthusiasm on the part of India. New Delhi said that the “cycle of violence in the occupied territories should end as it could be counter-productive for peace in the region”. What exactly is meant by the “cycle of violence in the occupied territories”? In the absence of any reference to Israeli occupation, despite a clear request from Mahmud Abbas to India to use its influence to end “Israeli occupation of Palestine”, the “cycle of violence” either faults the Palestinians, or equates Palestinian resistance with Israeli repression of the Palestinian people – or does both. (11)

The Hindu wrote editorially:

The Manmohan Singh government handled the visit to India of the Palestinian Authority President, Mahamud Abbas in rather low key. If this was because Mr.Abbas, a far less charismatic figure than his predecessor Arafat, preferred to shun the limelight it would be understandable. However it would be inexcusable if the lack of enthusiasm over the visit reflected any decline of interest in the Palestinian cause.

The editorial pointed out that the call for an end to violence was grossly inadequate. The official statement on the visit should have included a condemnation of the Israeli occupation, which is the primary cause for the strife. (12)

We now come to more recent developments.

India’s spy satellite launched by India in the third week of January 2008, has considerably enhanced Israel’s intelligence gathering capacity. The launch of the Tecsar satellite also known as Polaris opened a new stage in India-Israel strategic relations and added a new factor in the complex security scenario in West Asia. In reporting on the event, the Israeli media highlighted the strategic significance of the satellite in relation to Iran. The Haaretz reported on 21 January 2008, “The sophisticated new spy satellite could boost intelligence gathering capabilities regarding Iran”. The satellite “enables Israel to establish a new point of view in space allowing it photographic angles and reception of Iranian communications which were unavailable in prior satellite launches”, the daily continued. Indeed Iran had every reason to complain to India which it did but it was ignored by New Delhi, playing its assigned role in the US strategy to contain Iran. (13)

India launched an Israeli-made spy satellite from Sriharikotta near Bangaluru city in the southern Indian state of Karnataka on April 20. It is in a bid to keep a twenty-four-hour surveillance on its international borders, news agencies quoted Indian defence officials. The satellite will help India track infiltration of militants on its borders with Pakistan and inside the country. It could capture the images even under clouds and transmit them to the country.

As in the case of the Israeli satellite launched in January 2008, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), responsible for the launch, officially labelled the satellite a tool for “disaster management”. The launching of the satellite in 2008 January for Israel had been explained by ISRO as “utilizing its advanced technological capability to place satellites in orbit.” The organization had deliberately underplayed the strategic and political implications of the launch.

In the case of the launching of Israeli-made satellite in 2009 April, Israeli sources clearly stated that it was a “radar imaging espionage satellite made by Israel”. The acquisition of the spy satellite was fast-tracked after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008. The Indian security establishment was impressed by the Tecsar and wanted for itself a satellite capable of monitoring developments especially in its neigbourhood.

Nuclear cooperation between India and Israel does exist but the nature of the engagement is shrouded in absolute secrecy. India is a declared nuclear weapon state from 1998 and Israel has been an undeclared nuclear weapon state for decades. In his visit to Israel in 2000 Advani, then Home Minister in the NDA government, spoke of the possibilities of nuclear cooperation between India and Israel. Speaking about maritime cooperation between Israel and India, Prof. Sherman wrote, “It is especially significant that in 2000, Israeli submarines reportedly conducted test launches capable of carrying nuclear warheads in the waters of the Indian Ocean off the Sri Lankan coast.” (12) This would not have been possible without the knowledge, if not facilitation, by the Indian Navy.

Both India and Israel are outsiders in the nuclear club, having not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India was assured by President Bush – in the context of the negotiations on India-US civil nuclear agreement – that it would not be pressed to sign the NPT. Israel had such an assurance even earlier and it was reiterated by Bush and then Obama. India seems to be still unsure of Obama’s position on this matter.

The most effective lobbying on the Capitol Hill for the India-US civil nuclear agreement was made by the Israeli embassy in Washington and the American Jewish Committee. The Indian embassy had little experience in such lobbying and had employed two lobbying firms. But the American Jewish Committee, which has emerged as one of the big supporters of India in Washington, was the most influential on Congress and Senate members on the nuclear deal. It is not clear at what all levels the nuclear cooperation between India and Israel exists.

However it is evident that in supporting the India-US nuclear agreement, in addition to political and business interests Israel had its own specific interest in getting access to US nuclear technology, by making the India deal a precedent. On this matter Israel seems to have succeeded. Israel’s Army Radio reported in July 2010 that the US has sent a secret document committing to nuclear cooperation between the two countries. US has reportedly pledged to sell Israel materials used to produce electricity as well as nuclear technology and other supplies despite the fact that Israel is not a signatory to the NPT. The Army radio’s diplomatic correspondent said the reported offer could put Israel on a par with India, another NPT holdout which is openly nuclear-armed, but in 2008 secured a US-led deal granting it civilian imports.  (15)

In 2008 Israel surpassed Russia as the main defence supplier to India after breaking the $1billion mark contracts signed annually over the past few years. Israel is not, as Defence Minister Antony claims, just one among 45 countries with which India has defence deals. A Jerusalem Post article on 15th February, 2009 had the screaming headline, “Israel now India’s Top Defence Supplier”. Around the same time Udi Shani, Head of the Israeli Defence Ministry’s SIBAT, Defence Export and Cooperation Agency said in an interview to the Indian press, “We have a very special intense relationship with India. It is now moving toward joint development of equipment. There are several projects in the pipeline.” He added, “There is close cooperation and the Indians respect Israeli systems and our experience in fighting terror”. (16)

The nature of the cooperation of India and Israel in dealing with terrorism raises fundamental questions not only about India’s views on terrorism but also on how it understands the nature of the Palestinian struggle. The Indian government continues to equate Palestinian resistance to terrorism and often calls it cross-border terrorism. India and Israel have found a shared enemy to target in their respective ‘anti-terrorism’ operations, conflating Kashmir and Pakistan with Palestine, and a common agreement on a framework that has gained global currency with Bush’s war on terrorism. This is conceptually flawed and politically dangerous.

 “Israel’s homeland security systems are way ahead and India can benefit from your own experience. We are friendly countries and strategic partners based on sound fundamental principles. We have to cooperate to the fullest extent to combat the menace”, stated India’s Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia told business leaders in Tel Aviv in February 2010. Israeli President Shimon Peres offered New Delhi his country’s complete cooperation in the fight against terror saying, “India’s security is as important to Israel as its own” during a one-to-one meeting with Scindia. The Minister thanked Israel’s timely help in fight against terror from time to time. Describing the relationship between India and Israel as a “relationship between two souls”, Scindia said it is based on shared morals and principles. (17)

Recent statements or reactions from the Indian government of India on Israeli aggressions reflect more a calculated caution not to displease Israel in any way than a principled response to the developments or support to the Palestinian cause. Three instances may be cited: Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, aggression on Gaza strip 2008-2009 and military attack on the flotilla of humanitarian goods to Gaza in 2010. The language and tone of the statements on these occasions were carefully modulated so as not to invite displeasure from Israel or from the USA. There have been important developments on which India has kept silent. It has not criticized, let alone condemned, the Apartheid Wall that makes Bantustans in Palestine, though the Wall has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.

India hesitated in deploring the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006. It described the violence as a conflict between Israel and Hezbullah. India condemned the excessive and disproportionate military retaliation by Israel but stopped short of calling it an invasion or aggression targeting Lebanon’s civilian population.

Similar was India’s response to the Israeli massive and brutal attack on Gaza (Dec 2008 – Jan 2009) which killed thousands of Palestinian civilians. India urged Israel to put an end to the strike and resume a dialogue with the Palestinians. Here again the official statement did not name Israel as the aggressor and refused to condemn or deplore Israeli action.

On 31st May, 2010, nine peace activists aboard the Flottila carrying humanitarian aid for people trapped in Gaza were shot dead. As usual India added a feeble voice to the criticism of Israeli action. It took an entire day for the mandarins in New Delhi to frame the statement. The External Affairs spokesman Vishnu Prakash told reporters that “India deplored the tragic loss of life and the reports of killings and injuries to people on the boats carrying supplies for Gaza. There can be no justification for such indiscriminate use of force, which we condemn.” But who used such indiscriminate force? Who killed the nine people? India did not want to say and therefore the word Israel is not mentioned in the statement. There was not even a request, let alone any demand, from India that the blockade against the Palestinians should be lifted immediately and all supplies of medicines and other essential commodities resumed forthwith.

This time Palestine reacted openly. It is an educated guess that on earlier occasions Palestine made private representations expressing its concern about the tone and content of Indian statements on Israeli aggressions. The Palestine Ambassador Adli Sadeq said he was ‘surprised’ over India’s ‘weak’  statement on May 31 Israeli attack on the flotilla of civilian aid ships. He was speaking at a conference organized by Indo-Palestine Friendship Society in New Delhi. “The Indian government issued a weak statement. It did not mention Israel. That is not the political heritage of India’s ruling party.” Later Sadeq told IANS that Palestine had conveyed its ‘anguish’ to India over the statement.  (18)

He went further and raised serious questions about the assumptions in India-Israeli relations, “Now Israel tries to convince India to fight terrorism. That is a lie,” the ambassador said.

India has consistently refused to consider the impact of its defence nexus with Israel on occupation and Palestinian resistance. An appeal in 2008 by a number of non-governmental organizations related to Palestine to the “Indian people and its government”  to “Stop arms Trade with Apartheid Israel” said, “The Indian government which continues to reiterate its commitment to a just solution of the Palestinian question in accordance with international law, has unfortunately emerged as the major broker of Israel’s arms industry. It is important to realize that this is tantamount to financing continued, illegal occupation of Palestinian and Arab territory as it helps subsidize the occupation regime. India’s arms trade strategically contributes to the perpetuation of Israel’s occupation and apartheid system. We know that principled support for the Palestinian cause among Indian people is still unswerving.” 

The damage done to the Palestinian cause by the defence nexus between India and Israel is considerable. That is the main reason why India’s relation with Israel is a ‘state secret’.


  1. “The Secret of India-Israel Defence Ties Will Remain a Secret”, Outlook Magazine, February 18, 2008.
  2. Rehunuma Ahmed, “Military Ties Unlimited: India, Israel”, Posted in Global Issues, Media Issues, January 21, 2010.
  3. Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor, August 14, 2001.
  4. Martin Sherman, “From Conflict to Convergence: India and Israel Forge a Solid Strategic Alliance”, Jerusalem Post, February 28, 2003.
  5. Quoted by John Cherian in “The Sharon Visit”, Frontline, 13-26, September 2003.
  6. Mike Marqusee, “Fateful Triangle: India, Israel and the US”, Palestine News, July 2006.
  7. Levi Grinberg, “The Busharon Global War”, Foreign Policy in Focus, June 2002.
  8. “Unwritten, Abstract US-India-Israel Axis to Fight Terror”, Indian Express, September 11, 2003.
  9. Address by Brajesh Mishra, National Security Adviser of India at the American Jewish Committee Annual Dinner, Embassy of India, Washington, DC, 8 May 2003.
  10. Amit Baruah, “No Need to Go to Israel”, The Hindu 1 September 2003.
  11. Ninan Koshy, “Under the Empire: India’s New Foreign Policy”, LeftWord Books, New Delhi 2006, p. 258.
  12. “Firm Up Support for Israel”, Editorial, The Hindu, 26 May 2005.
  13. Ninan Koshy, “India and Israel Eye Iran”, Foreign Policy in Focus, February 12, 2008.
  14. Martin Sherman, Ibid.
  15. “Report: Secret Document Affirms US-Israel Nuclear Partnership”, Haaretz. Com, 07.07.2010.
  16.    “Israel Becomes India’s Top Defence Supplier”, www.india-defence.com/reports-4221.
  17. “Tackling Terror: India, Israel vow to Boost Ties”, Rediff.com, 19 February, 2010.
  18. “India’s Statement on Israeli Attack Weak: Palestine”, My Palestine, June 22, 2010.



Dr. Fatima Shahnaz

                                                                                 (Ph.D. Sorbonne University, Paris, France)

                  Email : fashahnaz@yahoo.com

(Dr. Fatima Shahnaz, (Ph.D. Sorbonne University, Paris, France), has been a ‘Visiting Professor’  (Political Science) at the Hyderabad Central University, Academic Staff College, and Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi. She is President of the India Peace Organization, an advocacy promoting international human rights and global peace which she founded in New York and operates in India and internationally. She took a stand for many causes in the US, for justice, ethnic minorities living in the US, against racism, and as an anti-war activist. She is a published author (her first novel, GOLCONDA, was published by News India-Times in New York), and a journalist published internationally. Several books of poetry by her include ‘Sarasvati’. She won the Jawaharlal Nehru Gold Medal for Writing in her early teens and was the first Asian/Indian Head Girl of her English Girls’  boarding school in Europe. Her primary and secondary education was British (G.C.E. Ordinary/Advanced levels from the Oxford-Cambridge boards). She obtained her B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from the Sorbonne, Paris. She has lectured at diverse universities, including the Alliance Francaise in Delhi and Hyderabad. She was cited by the Government of France as “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”, (“Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters”) in 2010, for her contribution to culture and service to civilization. Political articles, including “NATO’s new strategic role” were published in “Third Frame,”  a journal co-published by the Jamia and Cambridge University, U.K. The Jamia also published, “NATO’s new role: Kosovo, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Beyond”, a book on NATO by her. She has lectured widely on politics and human rights and appeared on radio and television. Her introduction and a poem on the tsunami were published in a collection entitled “In the Arms of Words: poems for disaster relief” by Sherman Ascher publishers, USA. Funds from the sales of this book were donated to victims of the Asian tsunami and  Hurricane Katrina in the USA.)



 Asalient prerequisite for any in-depth analysis of India’s role in the greater Middle East is a critical revision of regional geo-politics and the ‘special interests’ (key players) in the six-decade old crisis. Awareness of the broader spectrum would be decisive in defining the new bilateral Indo-Israeli relationship. However, equally significant is maintaining the balance with traditional allies in the Arab world and others such as Russia and Iran for India’s geo-strategic and national interests, particularly as the country has been defined as an emerging regional economic power-house. Additionally, destabilizing the balance will have a resonance in the Central Asian region, in addition to the fragile Sino-Indian relationship as China (like Russia) is integral to the new multi-polar relationships. Any strategic alliance should take into account the high stakes involved. Behind Indian policymaking itself lie principles that run far deeper than the current global financial disintegration: India’s image as a non-interventionist nation built on compliance with international law and universal humanitarian values rooted in justice cannot be shredded through political myopia, religious bias or short-term profit. While ‘realpolitik,’ self-interest and the ‘national security state’ may be the benchmarks of the post-Cold War era, foreign policy issues touch on an array of concerns: these ramifications, the end-game, overlap covering areas from the economic to the moral, strategic and political. Brief benefits rooted in ‘irrational’ or rash assumptions may, by and large, backlash if they fail to anticipate the self-destructive collision course such unilateral policymaking may have. As Israel is sponsored by the United States, (is even considered a ‘proxy’ or ‘foot-soldier’ of American interests), a realistic appraisal of US history and policymaking, past and present, would provide crucial evidence to foreign powers like India. The recent American experience of interventionism, with two illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, serves as a grim deterrent against military aggression. But earlier still, since Israel’s creation, the depletion of decades of American taxpayers’ funds to sustain the Zionist state (particularly at the current rate of unemployment and homelessness among American citizens) and the decline of the US into a war industry, the Military-Industrial complex, are warnings against the American example, of falling into the morass of its failed foreign policies. Such a disaster-course should be a blatant reminder of the incompatibility between US militarization that has exploited the war against terrorism as a pretext for a new arms race, and India’s modern heritage as a crusader for democracy. In brief, how can Mahatma Gandhi and Gunboat diplomacy mix? The globalists’ dogma is that Gandhi is an anachronism in the age of neo-liberal economics! Has India outgrown Gandhi? Can mythical non-violence, ahimsa, and the Indian past of pacifism be a match for Defense Inc., the expanding global war economy? Ostensibly, the Government of India has crossed the Rubicon, the imperialist threshold, and opted for Defense Inc. as it ‘liberalizes’ Indian markets for foreign military hardware. As Israel is now the second largest supplier of arms for India, the covert relationship between the two (currently cemented in Afghanistan where both have a marked presence) targets two traditional enemies: Pakistan in India’s case, and Iran, allegedly building its own nuclear arsenal, viewed as a threat by Israel which is the only nuclear power in the Middle Eastern region. Israel has been a US ‘garrison state’ entirely armed by the Anglo-American and Western military arsenal, and a launch-pad of Britain’s imperial interests in the Middle East. From the legal and moral standpoint, the Zionist state has systematically violated international law, been declared both an apartheid state and an occupying power of Palestinian territories. A deeper analysis would disclose the foreign interventionism in this cockpit of the world with the richest energy resources. Alienating oil sheikdoms through a pro-Israel policy would not only be self-defeating, but against India’s own interests at the drawing board for much-needed oil. Such ‘national interests’ cast a shadow over India’s so-called new ‘pragmatism,’ which may be tainted  with a cynical disregard for the humanitarian toll – through the expanding theatre of war from Southwest Asia to the subcontinent, and the “crores” on defense spending invested in Israel and other arms merchants. 

      Additionally, India’s paradigm-shift in foreign policy (with regard to Israel in particular) is not without its blowback effect. A scourge of challenges dogs the UPA Congress Government steered by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The domestic priorities can neither be wished away nor minimized, and internal contradictions place the Government on the horns of a political dilemma. A daunting motley crew, consisting of the Opposition Hindutva forces, BJP hawks and nationalists calls for a theocratic Hindu state on the lines of Israel’s Zionist “Ersatz Israel,’ or Greater Israel. The trend threatens to subvert the very fiber of a secular Indian democracy, making it analogous to Pakistan, defined as a theocratic state (and India’s regional rival). From recent events in the Islamic nation, the latest being the assassination of a Governor in Punjab pitting Islamists and religious groups against secularists, it is blatant that the theocracy-model has failed in Pakistan. Similarly, the Zionist model of Israel has become a ‘fortress’ or ‘garrison state’  mired in the perpetual war scenario from its inception. India’s internal fragmentation reveals fractious regional coalitions, secessionist movements, the anti-American left wing communist/Marxists, plus a vast Muslim minority vote-bank - all forces the Congress must contend with, appease, or keep at bay while pursuing policies as controversial as the one with Israel. It is perhaps tightrope walking in this volatile climate that compels the UPA to balance its new ‘diplomacy’ toward the Jewish state by opting for pragmatism, flexibility or compromise (often viewed as covertness).


But these very contradictions, fraught with ambivalence, have placed the Indian state in a moral quandary. Accusations of covert support for Israel, engineered by the new Indo-American strategic ‘partnership,’ lay blame on the Congress for becoming a ‘junior partner’ or ‘client state’ of the U.S. Further, the current Indian Government advertising  its Gandhian heritage has come under increasing criticism for betraying its own democratic and secular principles. This is not merely in shifting from its traditional policy of supporting the disenfranchised Palestinians expropriated and expulsed from their territories under Israeli occupation. India once took the moral high ground by supporting democratic movements in the post-colonial period. More importantly, having diverged from the path of non-interventionism pioneered by the Non-Aligned Movement, the Congress Party has additionally been denounced by critics for betraying India’s historic role of opposing imperialist domination, as an advocate of democratic movements and the sovereign nation state, of secularism and humanitarianism. Losing neutrality in a multi-polar world by tilting toward the Euro-Atlantic-Israeli Western powers has sucked the UPA into the maelstrom of the Middle East quagmire. With its support-base beefed by vast US military, financial, and technological aid, Israel is viewed by less armed Arab states as a despot, the proverbial ‘bully on the block’ or worse, the regional policeman for its puppeteers, the US and Britain.


      Ironically, with global sentiments blinded by rabid anti-Americanism, the British role in Middle East geo-politics has virtually been whitewashed. Architect of the state of Israel, the Sykes-Picot pact partitioning Arab territories, Britain’s exploitation of the oil-rich Arab Gulf states is historic. It has been a partner in the Anglo-Saudi arms-for-oil scheme called Al-Yamamah brokered in 1986 between Prince Bandar, the British Government and British weapons cartel, BAE Systems. This provided fighter jets, radar, training and logistical and spare parts to the Saudi Air Force, and the British were paid for the military hardware with crude oil. BAE sold this on the international spot market and an estimated $100 billion in excess funds were siphoned to offshore accounts. These were aimed at funding “black” operations (terrorism?) worldwide. The sponsorship of the Afghan mujahideen fighting the Soviet Red Army was one recipient of the funds, and recently leaked US State Department documents declare that al-Qaeda, the Taliban and LeT (lashkar-e-Tayyiba) continue to receive funding from these sources. Former US Vice President Dick Cheney was entangled in financial scandals involving the BAE deal, which he did not declare to the US Congress. The Saudi-British nexus with the Bush family (two US Presidents, father and son) was uncovered in the post-9/11 period.  Britain has been identified as providing a safe haven for ‘terrorists’. The U.K. is also allied with Israel in launching the current war-drive against Iran. The adversarial relationships fomented between the Gulf States and Iran is another missing piece in the Mideast jigsaw puzzle.


      With regard to Iran, Indian policymakers send mixed signals, flip-flopping under American pressure. With overwhelming US military aid, Israel’s war machine targets Iran, considered a rival building its own nuclear arsenal and a future threat to Israel.  Grant F. Smith (in Online Journal) reports that the Republican US Representative Mark Steven from Illinois received $221,000 in campaign contributions from Israel political action committees (PACs) to introduce legislation preventing the Import-Export bank from providing loan guarantees to countries doing business with Iran. In December 2010, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, envoy of the ‘Middle East Quartet’, was in the US attempting to influence U.S. policy in Southwest Asia and toward the Muslim world, specifically promoting war against Iran. At the Israel-Palestine forum in the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution on December 10, Blair met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who gave a keynote address attended by Labor Party Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Blair, who belongs to the British intelligence group “the Faith Foundation,” has connections with the fundamentalist “settler” extremists in Israel. On December 2, the Faith Foundation chose as its first American university associate Wheaton College, Illinois, affiliated with the “Christian Zionism” doctrine that promotes war in the Middle East. Alumni of Wheaton College include the fundamentalist speechwriter of George W. Bush who targeted Iran in the ‘Axis of Evil’ State of the Union speech in 2002. Christian-Zionist fanatics in the Bush-Cheney White House drafted U.S. foreign policy with a fundamentalist doctrine based on defining the borders of Israel along those in the Old Testament. For Christians this would usher in the Battle of Armageddon prophesied in the Book of Revelations. In the Netherlands, NIPAC (the Netherlands Israel Public Affairs Council) like the US-based Israel lobby (AIPAC) has been used by the Israeli Government of Prime Minster Netanyahu to enlist support in Europe for a war drive against Iran. A Dutch member of Parliament, Wim Kortenoeven, member of an anti-Islamic party, director of NIPAC who lived in Israel, proposed a “preventive war” on Iran on December 15 (Dutch news service, NOS). He said, “By attacking, we have to prevent our own destruction. 


      The Zionist state itself epitomizes the model of apartheid state India denounced through its principles of justice in the case of South Africa. The late Columbia University Professor, Edward Said, described Israel as “the last colonial outpost of empire”. With its own history of ‘covert war,’ or terrorism, Israel has launched assassination squads against leaders, activists or individuals opposed to its policies. The latest in these are suspected to be a murdered Iranian nuclear scientist, and human rights activists on the flotilla (“Spirit of Humanity”) carrying humanitarian aid to Palestinians exterminated under the Israeli blockade on Gaza. In a grisly replay of daily news, an innocent Palestinian was shot in his home by Israeli troops this January, 2011. Indian history stresses a fundamental incompatibility in India’s relations with any abuser of international law. But a turning point in Indian policy occurred during the Kargil War in 1997, with the BJP Government forging a new alliance with Israel, which heavily supplied weapons to India against Pakistan. In the post-9/11 phase, the new international zeitgeist of a booming arms industry is the ‘security state’. The ‘war against terrorism’ is its ‘mantra,’ and war-profiteering its ideology. 



      The Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement (May 31, 2010) on the “incident” involving the Israeli raid on the aid flotilla on the sea off the coast of Gaza.: “India deplores the tragic loss of life and the reports of killings and injuries to people on the boats carrying supplies for Gaza. There can be no justification for such indiscriminate use of force, which we condemn. We extend our sympathies to the families of the dead and wounded. It is our firm conviction that lasting peace and security in the region can be achieved only through peaceful dialogue and not through use of force”. Yet soundbytes out of New Delhi are devoid of credibility, as if ‘invisible puppeteers’ operated a puppet government. Foreign policy decisions appear to lack consistency, or even consensus within the Congress Party, so the contradictions emerging are political spin in a vacuum. For example, India’s standing in the Organization of Islamic Conference countries demonstrates another‘flip-flopping’ attitude, in addition to ambivalence on the Palestinian issue. While voting with the OIC each time it denounced Israel, India found itself isolated when the OIC took anti-India resolutions repudiating India’s sovereign right over Jammu and Kashmir. The Hindu right-wing is benighted by its own lacunae, its perennial blind spots. Its worldview remains narrowly reductionist, obsessive over traditional enemies like Pakistan and China, but blindly supporting Israel for its Islamophobic policies equated with communal anti-Muslim sentiments in India. This misplaced bias gives a green light signal for Israel’s expansionism into the Indian region, and penetration of Indian intelligence, military and political networks. The presence of Israelis, even covert intelligence operatives posing as students or journalists in Goa, the Himalayan region or the Northeast is barely disclosed, either by the Indian media or right-wing Hindu Parties. Saffron organizations (even the RSS) may be informed of the presence of scores of rabbis on the subcontinent and conversions of Hindus to Judaism, but this wave of Israeli infiltration is largely ignored while Christian and Muslim minorities, mostly ethnic Indians, are subjected to routine pogroms. These are the contradictions in the fractured Indian polity and mind. As the French philosopher Voltaire (1712-1778) wrote “Those who can make people believe absurdities can make them commit atrocities.”  Israeli penetration in the Kashmir region, as in Afghanistan, is another minefield for India, as it alienates the local Muslim population, driving them deeper into the Pakistan camp. Israel was recruited by the US and Britain in the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to train “contractors” in torture methods and intelligence techniques practiced on Palestinian prisoners. Along with a growing influx of the American FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) into India, Israel has also trained the Indian armed forces in Kashmir and other troubled areas in dealing with ‘terrorist’ tactics. The arbitrary arrests of Muslim youth throughout India, countless ‘fake encounters’ of innocent civilians targeted by the Indian ‘security forces’ in Kashmir, show evidence of Israel’s ‘Palestinian model’ of torture practiced on Indian citizens, mostly innocent Muslims. This is an alarming recipe for India’s decline into ‘state terrorism’ on the Israeli model of a state rooted in violation of international law, a remorseless abuser of human rights. But as Voltaire said, the absurdity of the situation is the distorting propaganda itself: in the United States the Israel lobby censors any dissent or criticism of Jewish policies by accusing critics of ‘anti-Semitism’.  In this way, the abusers have maintained a ‘brainwashing’ technique that has virtually silenced opposition to Israel in the Western hemisphere. Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, told the Russia Today TV Channel (July 3, 2009) that “when it comes to the Middle East, the US Government is the puppet of Israel (or rather its lobby)”. He observed, “Americans think that they are a superpower, but in fact they are a stupor-power.  A puppet state if truth be known”.


      In “Agent Provocateur: On Israel, India plays Boy Scout” Kanchan Gupta (in his weekly column, Coffee Break, The Pioneer, June 6, 2010) stresses the Indian ambivalence from the Hindu conservative’s angle: “We can vote against Iran at the IAEA to please America (it would have been an entirely defensible and justifiable decision had New Delhi voted against Tehran on its own and not at Washington’s behest) but we can’t refuse to vote against Israel bearing in mind our national interest?” He refers to the military weapons generously supplied by Israel in the Kargil war. The Hindu right-wing accuses the Government of subservience to the OIC and of failing to show sympathy for Israel as it might “antagonize” the Muslim world, and on the basis that this would support Pakistan’s claim to J&K. Such false assumptions echo the ‘clash of civilizations’ dogma of the anglophile, Professor Samuel P. Huntington, who viewed all Muslim nations as  ‘monolithic’. The Hindutva ideology is similarly based on the irrational assumption that all Muslims are pro-Pakistan. It would be no exaggeration to register the impact on India’s foreign policy toward Arab states through the vast foreign incomes coming from NRIs of the Indian diaspora working in the Gulf area. Such conflicting considerations are underpinnings of the ‘covert’ or tacit nature of the Indo-Israeli relationship. But despite these ‘national interests,’ Kanchan Gupta disparages the pro-Islamic tilt of the Indian political establishment: “By rushing into criticizing Israel, we may think we have scored brownie points with Turkey, which has recalled its Ambassador to Tel Aviv and threatened to snap six decades of diplomatic relations, but such expectations are entirely misplaced. The Islamist AKP regime in Ankara has made it abundantly clear that its sympathies lie with Islamabad and not New Delhi on a host of issues, especially the future role of Pakistan and India in Afghanistan; that it will facilitate Tehran’s bomb-in-the basement programme through subterfuge and sleight of hand and, that it sees itself as the new centre of Islamic politics and Islamist revanchism. If anything, India looks as silly as Nicaragua and South Africa – the first is trying to rediscover Left radicalism in a world that cruelly mocks at the Left; the second is blessed with a succession of Muslim Deputy Foreign Ministers who abuse Israel to satiate their lust for anti-Semitism.”

      A closer study of Byzantine Middle Eastern politics would certainly avoid rash judgmentalism: since the flotilla incident, Israel and Turkey have re-established communications. Neither would wish to forfeit their longstanding trade and development relationship. For India, the dangers of falling into a new ‘saffron-Star of David’ nexus might be more relevant. When extremist Hindu terrorists were arrested in India for several bomb-blasts (Malegaon, Mumbai, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid etc.) it was reported that some of these had established a “Government in Exile” in Tel Aviv, with the blessings of the Israeli Government! The issue of China is raised by Mr. Gupta as another thorn in India’s flesh: “As if that were not enough, we have been bracketed with China which amazingly lectured Israel on the need to be mindful about safeguarding human rights. We could, of course, compare our hypocrisy with that of Britain which earlier this year expelled an Israeli diplomat over the targeted killing of a Hamas terrorist in Dubai. Few know that sanctimonious Britain provides caring shelter to Islamists wanted for horrible crimes around the world.” Britain, it may be recalled, happens to be the mastermind and puppeteer of Israel.


      From the above it is implicit that an in-depth awareness of imperial geo-politics in the Middle East, and imperialist oil wars, might help Indian policymakers gain better insights into the Israeli-Arab conflict. A failure to do so would confuse and distort the wider realities at stake. With its own colonial history, India cannot forget the past by subscribing to the imperial narrative, regressing to the role of the loyal ‘gurkha’  guards servicing the very empire the nation overthrew.


      Gaza, home to 1.5 million Palestinians driven by force out of their homes, farms, and villages with American-supplied Israeli weapons, has been called the “world’s largest concentration camp”. The continual expansion of Israeli settlements in stolen Palestinian territories has been an ongoing violation of international law and United Nations laws condemning Israel’s theft of Palestine. Some witnesses have compared this with the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of American Indians by US settlers robbing their lands between the 17th and 19th centuries. Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2010 and assault on the “Spirit of Humanity” carrying humanitarian aid caused international outrage, but with US support for the Zionist state, the human rights movement itself becomes a hypocrisy. The abuse and torture of captured Palestinian children, shot down in streets by Israeli defense forces is an open secret. The Geneva-based Defense for Children International, cited in Time Magazine, reported that “the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian child prisoners appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized, suggesting complicity at all levels of the political and military chain of command”.  Time comments, “Often, children suffer lasting traumas from jail.  Says Saleh Nazzal, of the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoner Affairs, “When soldiers burst into a house and drag away a child, he loses his feeling of being protected by his family.  He comes back from prison alienated from his family, his friends.  They don’t like going back to school or even leaving the house.  They start wetting their beds.”  A YMCA counselor helping kids returning from prison, Mona Zaghrout, adds, “They come out of prison thinking and acting like they are men. Their childhood is gone.”  The end-result of this child abuse is to radicalize children who then go on to join armed militant groups “fighting the Israeli occupation”.  Israel’s blockade of Gaza prevents any human rights activists or international intervention. Foreign nationals and human rights activists on the aid ship were kidnapped or killed by the Zionist state. The fence ghettoizing Palestinian territories, a new Berlin Wall, has  been condemned by international courts, but disregarded by Israel. In sixty years of  Israel’s war-crimes and violations of international law any United Nations sanctions have been vetoed by the US, and Western powers. Israel’s power over the United States Congress and President (with an Israeli citizen, former member of the Israeli Defense Forces made a Chief-of-Staff in the Obama White House), extends far beyond, into the American heartland itself. Right-wing “Christian Zionists” and “rapture evangelicals” milled around the regime of former President George W. Bush, creating the nexus between the Jewish lobby and Christian Right. That Christian-Zionist movement has been recently revived by former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in his trip to the US last December (2010) to drum up war against Iran.


      Israel’s rabid ‘Islamophobia’ has defined Palestinians and Arabs as ‘terrorists’. This includes the freely elected government of Hamas, in Gaza. According to Paul Craig Roberts, “Hamas, unlike Israel, is declared to be a terrorist organization by the puppet American State Department in Washington.” In Israel’s view the human rights activists on board the “Spirit of Humanity” were seen as aiding and abetting terrorists as they delivered goods to them. The US Department of Justice prosecutes American citizens and charities sending aid to Palestinians on the basis that the latter are either terrorists, or governed by terrorists. While US states like California fall into bankruptcy, Craig commented “our government in Washington told the Governor of California “not one red cent,” President Barak Obama handed over 2.775 billion and the weapons to Israel.” On June 29, 2010 Online Journal reported that the handover of Americans’ tax-dollars to Israel occurred in a “tiny Capitol room” where members of the press were denied access.  This is the state of affairs in Washington while the American nation has its highest rate of unemployment  since the Great Depression. In military aid, Israel bypasses the Pentagon to deal directly with American weapons suppliers. This bolsters Israel’s nuclear arsenal and empowers the Israel lobby in congressional committees.


      The amalgamation of all these factors calls for a new perspective on the current impasse regarding the Arab-Israeli peace process, which has repeatedly been shot down by the Likud conservative government in Israel, expanding the illegal settlements, supported by the Anglo-Americans. But there has been a considerable shift in regional balance since the Lebanon War in 2006, and Israel’s Gaza invasion in 2008 targeting Hezbollah and Hamas (the leading Palestinian party elected into office after Fatah), with long-range rockets. While the United States and Britain are viewed as the traditional ‘puppeteers’ replaying imperial interests in the region, Syria and Iran are Israel’s targets, accused of “covertly supplying the two [Palestinian] groups with more than 50,000 missiles and rockets,” according to the British Economist. The newspaper gives a dire forecast for war and spiraling violence, thus justifying Israel’s right to self-defense: “For the first time a radical non-state actor has the power to kill thousands of civilians in Israel’s cities more or less at the press of the button.” As Israel is prepared to “strike back with greater fire-power, “a war of this sort could easily draw in Syria, and perhaps Iran.” The Economist predicts an expansion of the theatre of war is inevitable within the next year:  “Every time an attempt at Arab-Israel peacemaking fails, as Barack Obama’s did shortly before Christmas, the peace becomes a little more fragile and the danger of war increases. Sadly, there is reason to believe that unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive such war for many years.”


      In this apocalyptic scenario, there are emerging voices with new perspectives, albeit tentative. These may be the “road less traveled,” but new regional triangles and strategic partnerships are challenging the old imperialist script. Some optimism emerges from these divergent views countering the imperialist failures. As an emerging power in the South Asian region, India may have a pivotal role to play in resolving the Middle East conflict and Arab-Israeli deadlock. Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov (December 9, 2010) proposed the intervention of China and India in the group of international mediators involved in resolving the Middle East stalemate, to be achieved by re-activating the “roadmap” drafted in 2003 by the ‘Quartet’ (the U.S.A., UN, EU, and Russia). In a speech to the annual conference of the Valdai Group in Malta this year, Primakov said “it is necessary to activate the Quartet and to expand the mediator mission on its base.”  The impasse of the Quartet was blamed by former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on Israel. Novosti, the Russian news agency, reported he “poured cold water on the Quartet’s defunct 2003 “road map,” blaming Israel for the failure of talks regarding freezing settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories. Although talks resumed in September 2010 after a lapse of 20 months, the Israelis continued construction on the West Bank leading to a collapse of the talks. Meanwhile, the Iranian Press TV reported that a move by three Latin American countries, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay recognizing a sovereign Palestinian State within the 1967 borders of Israel and Palestine was condemned by Israel.  The three nations sent a formal letter of recognition to the Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on December 6. The initiative of the three Latin countries serves as a moral code reminding that the real issue is one of morality and justice, through recognition of the Palestinian state. Europe and the United States have allowed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud (right-wing) government to block chances of negotiations. But the imperialist hand, specifically British imperial interests in the Middle East region, strangles the peace process; and duplicitous machinations – the “old” way of doing things - thwart endeavors to bring peace. Over 100 countries, including China and Russia, two permanent UN Security Council members, have recognized the state of Palestine. But despite this there is no independent Palestinian state, while Kosovo became one recently. The two reasons for this are that it perpetuates the colonial policies of the British empire and its imperial interests, and controls the nations through fomenting such crises. The need to “think outside the box” would mean not playing the game controlled by the “invisible puppeteers”. As pragmatic self-interest in foreign policymaking is prioritized  over moral or humanitarian prerogatives, the smaller poorer nations striving to be “players” on the chessboard operate through appeasement policies. While a rift has arisen and been fostered externally between the two major Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah, recognizing an independent Palestinian state would have to include both parties, as Hamas has been limited to Gaza. In the final analysis, the Palestinians themselves should have a right to decide who their elected representatives are to be and the nature of their state. In recognizing these ground realities India would pursue a realistic and independent foreign policy, not pressured by the satraps of external powers.


      In the complex and dangerously fragmented multi-polarized global scenario there is a compelling need to review bi-polar relations. The bilateral Indo-Israeli relationship that has burgeoned in the past two decades should be seen in this light, particularly with nations on the brink of disintegration, national bankruptcies, volatile currencies and expanding warfare. Shifting global alliances and new strategic partnerships are symptomatic of this turbulent climate. A timely reminder of the high stakes facing the nation, and the Planet, lies in US President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address on January 17, 1961 to the American people fifty years ago. The speech was described by Time magazine as “one of the most notable policy statements of U.S. history”. In the aftermath of Joseph Stalin’s death, offering a new five-point plan to the Soviets for ending the cold war, Eisenhower defined his vision for peace. He denounced the alarming militarization of the age through the rise of the military-industrial complex, the escalating stockpiling of the American war machine, and defense spending that misappropriated resources from “productive to destructive purposes,” according to Andrew J. Bacvich (The Atlantic, January 2011)). In his presentation to the American Society of Newspaper editors on April 16, 1953, Eisenhower prophesied a protracted war scenario ahead, describing it as “humanity hanging from a cross of iron”.  This echoed the misgivings of his farewell speech a decade earlier: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”  He continued, “Any nation that pours its treasure into the purchase of armaments is spending more than mere money.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”  Eisenhower, a mere voice in the wilderness, was drowned by US policymakers who saw plausible economic benefits in boosting the military arsenal. What Eisenhower saw was that “the cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities ... We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.” 

      With “crores” lavished by the Government on Defense Inc. and Israel, the second largest supplier of Indian weaponry, India’s “aam aadmi” may well be ‘collateral damage’ in the meatgrinder war-machine. But a “theft from those who hunger and are not fed”  should remind Indians of the stench of malnutrition in our urban areas, our slums and cities, specifically children; of the “half-million bushels of wheat” that paid for a single fighter, but cannot stop farmers’ suicides in our agricultural sector; the price of a single destroyer that could have “housed more than 8,000 people”  but cannot allow Hindus, Muslims and any ‘humane-ness’ to cohabit in our cities. But that was then, Eisnehower’s America! This is now, shining India. The price of onions, of gasoline, of rotting grains in warehouses sold to feed European cattle but not India’s poor, the price-tag of fighter jets that could sustain a small country.

      These humanitarian considerations may seem grossly outdated in the globalists’ agenda; nor is this article intended as an anti-Semitic diatribe against Jews or the Jewish faith, but against militarization and belligerence which has led the world into spiraling violence. Our sense of universal justice should be anchored in morality, a civilized conscience, civil equity. The words of a prominent New York Rabbi who once told a Biblical story during the 1990s reflect this. When Moses parted the Red Sea and the Israelites walked safely to the other shore, they turned to see Pharaoh’s troops, the pursuing enemy forces, drowned and killed. Moses congratulated the Israelites for surviving, but when he sought God’s blessing, He was silent. Three times Moses asked God if he was not happy with the miracle, but finally God replied, “Why should I be happy? You have killed my children”.

      Anyone who saw Saddam Hussein’s scuds fall on Israeli cities in the first Gulf War of 1991-92, who saw televised images of Benjamin Netanyahu in a whole night’s vigil on a roof-top watching missiles strike Israel, or Israeli citizens, women and children, blown up in buses, cannot delete those horrors from memory. Nor can the atrocities of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany be forgotten, just as the new death-camps of Gaza cannot be erased. The killings can only stop when the arms cartels stop; when justice is not arbitrary but the same for Jew and Palestinian; and when the rabbi’s story with God’s words, “You have killed my children”  applies to all humankind indiscriminately, Arab, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain, as to all races.


The India-Israel relationship: a survey

Shashank Joshi 
Department of Government 
Harvard University 
Cambridge, MA 02138

(I am interested in security studies, military affairs and especially civil-military relations, South Asia with a focus on the foreign policy of India. I also have interests in international political economy, and political psychology.

I studied politics and economics at Cambridge University (Gonville and Caius College), where I edited the undergraduate economics journal for two years and graduated with a Starred First. During 2008-9, I was one of Britain's nine Kennedy Scholars at Harvard.

I have taught both economics and politics at both places, and have also worked for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Moscow on electoral analysis and democratic training projects, Citigroup in New York in their regulatory reporting division, and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London on Indian foreign and security policies.)

Email : shashj@gmail.com


The enduring idiosyncrasies of the India-Israel relationship were underscored in September 2010 when Mani Shankar Aiyar, a senior Congress leader and former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service, publicly condemned the Congress-led government’s friendliness towards Israel. He complained that India had ‘become so dependent on defence supplies from Israel that when I put up a Rajya Sabha question seeking the government’s reply on whether it equated the large number of civilians killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza strip … with the killings by Hamas, the Ministry of External Affairs disallowed my question, calling it a state secret’. Aiyar lamented the major policy shift that this reflected, given that ‘we (India) were in the forefront of the Palestinian cause?’  1

India and Israel famously established full diplomatic relations only in 1992, four and a half decades after the two countries were founded as independent states a year apart. For much of that period, India’s opposition to Israel’s actions towards the Arab states and the Palestinian territories was vocal, held by many as an article of faith, and garnered consensus across India’s bureaucracies. It accorded with India’s prominent role in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), with India’s close ties to Arab states, and with the scepticism of American foreign policy that buttressed successive generations of mainstream views amongst decision-makers in New Delhi.

Although India recognized Israel in 1950, the former’s participation in NAM was deemed to require support for the erstwhile Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as part of a broader anti-colonial struggle, during a period in which colonial assets were still held by European states (including Goa, by Portugal). In keeping with this commitment, India was quick to permit PLO representation in New Delhi, and became one of the first states worldwide to recognize Palestinian independence. India was the first non-Arab state to recognize the PLO as the ‘role legitimate representative of the Palestinian people’. 2

Maulana Kalam Azad, a senior figure in the Indian independence movement and India’s first education minister, was influential in ensuring both strong Indian support for the Arab states in their disputes with Israel and also the limitations on Indian diplomatic relations with Israel.3 In the 1960s, V. K. Krishna Menon, defence minister between 1957 and 1962, explained to an American scholar that India could not extend full recognition to Israel because ‘we have got [anti-Israel] Pakistan on our borders, and the West supports Pakistan, and we cannot go and create more enemies than we have at the present moment’. He went on to add that ‘the one very good friend we have in the world is Nasser’, against whom Israel had fought in both 1956 and 1968.4  Even so, M.J. Akbar notes that at the first and seminal Afro-Asian (Bandung) Conference in 1955, ‘although Krishna Menon wanted Israel’s presence, Nehru succumbed to Arab pressure and kept Israel out’. Nehru later admitted to Indian diplomats that ‘keeping Israel out was illogical’.5 Yet by this time, India’s policy was undergirded by a broad set of seemingly durable interests.

Securing Muslim states’  support for India on the Kashmir issue, which remained subject to considerable diplomatic effort through the 1950s and 1960s, generated incentives for Delhi to demonstrate India’s fidelity to their own disputes and interests in the territorial contest with Israel. This was largely to no avail. In the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War, for instance, ‘Muslim’ states as disparate as Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran all sent military aircraft to assist Pakistan.6  Ironically, Israel offered covert support to India in this, as well as the 1962 Sino-Indian War before and the 1999 Kargil War after.7  In the latter conflict, Israel reportedly rushed ammunition to India, and assisted in the interpretation of imagery from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones). India also consistently overestimated the likely Arab and other Muslim states’ reaction to Indian engagement with Israel.

India also retained interests in securing supplies of oil from the Arab states, and continued to harbour views that Zionism was tainted with the same anti-secular and regressive implications of the founding ideology of Pakistan.8  Former foreign minister Jaswant Singh has also suggested that because ‘it was felt that injustice must not be done to India’s Muslims … India’s Israel policy became captive to domestic policy and therefore an unstated veto’.9 There is little evidence as to whether this was in fact an important influence on Indian leaders, but the effect of foreign policy on Indian minorities was certainly a deep concern of Nehru.10  Later, as many as three million Indian workers in the Middle East were supplying a steady flow of remittances back into India, providing another reason for reticence in engaging with Israel.

During the tenure of the Janata government in 1977, Israel’s foreign minister (and hero of the 1967 war) Moshe Dayan conducted a secret visit to India, meeting India’s foreign minister (and later prime minister) A.B. Vajpayee and prime minister Morarji Desai. The latter reportedly observed that he would be at risk of being removed from office were the visit to be made public and that, although it was a mistake not to have done so in 1948, he could not suddenly restore full diplomatic relations.11  After the Camp David Accords of 1978, India was firmly against the attempt of some Arab states to expel Egypt from NAM for its signing of a separate peace with Israel, despite the continuation of the occupation. Yet the structural factors that constrained India’s policy remained largely unchanged. As late as 1989, India controversially voted in the United Nations to condemn Zionism as racism. 12

The transformation of Indian foreign policy that took place after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the financial crisis that forced a more rapid liberalization of areas of the Indian economy was a process that C. Raja Mohan described as ‘crossing the rubicon’.13  But the shift was in fact more gradual than this idiom suggests, and nowhere more so than in India’s Middle East policy. Even before 1992, there purportedly existed close collaboration between the intelligence organisations of Israel’s Mossad and India’s Research and Analysis Wing over matters of mutual concern, such as terrorism and areas of nuclear proliferation. 14

Israel’s wartime support for India in 1962 and 1965 was documented above. A.B. Vajpayee, defending his role in the secret trip to India by Moshe Dayan, later insisted that ‘"I am also constrained to say that the closest relationship between the two countries was in 1962, 1965 and 1971 and not during my tenure in the external affairs Ministry’.  15 There is limited evidence as to the scope of this cooperation. There is a more extensive record of the two states’ mutual concern about Pakistan’s nuclear program. Israel was fearful of Pakistani cooperation with Libya, and had experience of having bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak in 1981. Throughout this period, there were sporadic Pakistani concerns that India and Israel would collaborate on a strike on Pakistani nuclear facilities at Kahuta. Aside from India’s acute vulnerability to retaliation, this was subject to familiar constraints. One senior defence official claimed that ‘we have 100 million Muslims in India. If w cooperated with the Israelis in attacking Pakistan, it would be a huge political disaster and could cause severe internal problems’. 16

In 1992, then prime minister Narasimha Rao – along with foreign minister SHarad Pawar, foreign secretary J.N. Dixit, and defence secretary K.A. Nambiar – established full diplomatic relations, with representation in Tel Aviv. A year later, Israeli foreign minister (and current president Shimon Peres visited Delhi, and five years later, Israeli president Ezer Weizmann. As the details above suggest, there was more continuity to this move than has previously been recognized. But the changes of the preceding years had afforded to India greater strategic latitude, along with the necessary change in perception to take advantage of this. The India-US relationship had been steadily improving since the beginning of the 1980s, and Rao’s shift came just before a major trip to Washington.17  In the period since, India’s rapprochement with the United States, particularly after the key accords of 2005, has lubricated the India-Israel relationship by virtue of Washington’s unusually close relationship with the latter. India’s enduring divergences from US foreign policy – for instance, regarding Indian engagement with Iran and Myanmar/Burma – have been a source of awkwardness for successive American administrations, and the reconciliation between a long-time and a newfound ally was particularly welcome by Presidents Clinton and Bush.18

By the time the Oslo Accords disintegrated in the 1990s, Arab states were increasingly concerned about India’s apparent balance in its Israel-Palestine policy, which C. Raja Mohan notes ‘in fact … was a significant retrenchment of traditional support for the Arabs’, to the point where ‘New Delhi was loath to project itself as a potential interlocutor between Israel and the Arabs’.19  In September 2003, India was able to welcome Ariel Sharon to Delhi without much of the embarrassment that had accompanied such prior meetings between officials.

This grew over the decade, to the point where Israel became India’s second-largest source of arms (on some estimates, the largest).20 During the 2005-2009 period in which India was the world's second-biggest arms buyer (behind only China), India imported nearly half a billion dollars worth of arms from Israel (compared to only $147 million from the United States).21 A separate study gauges Israeli sales to India between 2002 and 2005 as amounting to over $5 billion.22  The sensitivity of these transfers increased over time, and defence ties came to be seen as the vanguard of the broader relationship. This was exemplified by the sale of Israeli Phalcon AWACs (airborne radar systems) to India in 2004. This contrasted sharply with the US attitude towards Israel’s desired sale of the same to China in 1999. Since the system constituted a joint venture production owing to financial support from the US, Washington was able to veto the sale to China, reportedly costing Israel a quarter of a million dollars in losses. The first system landed in India in May 2009. India has acquired three, and plans to purchase two to three more. According to one report, this would comprise the largest defence agreement in the history of Israel’s existence.

Israeli technology transfers have also been key in aircraft avionics (many of which feature in the Russian entry in India’s Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft, or MRCA, tender), border defence technology such as unmanned ground sensors along the India-Pakistan Line of Control, air defence platforms, theatre missile defence technology, and a range of other security-related transfers that for so long has been denied to India under the technology denial regimes that followed India’s two nuclear tests.

What is notable is that each Cold War era driver of Indian enmity with Israel –  rivalry with Pakistan, competition for the affections of Arab and Muslim states, a substantial domestic Muslim population perceived to be hostile to Israel and its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, an Indian migrant worker community in the Middle East, and Indian dependence on the Middle East for energy supplies – remain. Some, such as the energy factor, indeed ought to have intensified as constraints on India-Israel ties. 23

And yet, the relationship is more expansive and multifaceted than ever before. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was not unimportant, particularly in driving the India-US relationship and thereby altering India’s interaction with traditional US allies. But the Soviet Union had never forced India to keep its distance from Israel, and had a turbulent relationship to its Arab allies, many of whom charted reasonably independent courses. This suggests that much of Indian policy was driven by domestic perceptions rather than rigid external constraints. When broader policy was re-evaluated and overhauled from 1992 onwards, this allowed a re-assessment of policy towards Israel.

By the late 1990s, the India-Israel relationship had diversified in content, and included much more than pure defence matters. India, in a marked departure from its usually lethargic diplomacy, began to expand contacts with pro-Israel lobby groups in Washington so as to develop new sources of leverage with American administrations.  Increasingly, Delhi has viewed these lobby groups as models, to which the Indian-American community could aspire. The role of Indian-American groups in encouraging and pushing through Congress the US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement in the years after 2005 appears to have validated this judgment.25  Between 2001 and 2005, trade tripled to $2.2 billion, a relatively low figure but indicative of a major shift since the 1980s and 1990s (trade does, however, remain dominated by diamonds). Space cooperation has also flourished. In January 2008, India launched a spy satellite for Israel, and there are plans to significantly expand space research cooperation. 26

What concerns remain?

First, the relationship remains unbalanced in its overwhelming focus on defence transfers. One the one hand, this reflects an Indian attempt to diversify its import sources after generations of almost exclusive procurement from Russian sources. Those Russian arms became increasingly obsolete, and dealings with Russia became more commercial and less favourable to India. The astonishing delays that Russia was able to impose on India regarding the sale of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov highlighted for India the dangers of relying too greatly on one state.27  Increasing imports from Israel and the United States not only reflect qui pro quos for concessions in the diplomatic realm, but also ensure the risks associated with the need for spare parts, ammunition and technology modification are more evenly spread. 28

However, Israel has not been an unproblematic defence partner. In June 2009, the Indian government suspended involvement with several companies concerned with a case entailing alleged bribery of a former head of the Indian Ordnance Factor Board. Israeli Military Industries (IMI), one of the companies, had been contracted to build five ordnance and ammunition factories in India. The Indian Army, and the Indian special forces, were reported to be especially dependent on Israeli sources of equipment.29  Other firms, such as Rafael and Israeli Aerospace Industries, were also implicated but their centrality to the Indian defence sector left them unscathed.

These reflect only a fraction of the concerns with Indian procurement. Nor is Israel the only state whose arms industry has raised such concerns – these are familiar to Indian external and internal procurement – but it suggests India will not be free from the problems that have plagued its prior efforts at modernization.

Second, Indian diplomacy has at times struggled with balancing competing diplomatic interests. India’s multiple votes against Iran at the IAEA provoked considerable anger in Tehran, and set back India’s efforts to consolidate relations with Iran. But these votes were deemed a necessary corollary of Washington’s great efforts towards the civil nuclear deal. India’s relations with Burma/Myanmar have been a similar thorn in the side of the India-US relationship, with India eager to secure Myanmar’s support on countering insurgent groups and long-term energy supplies, and the United States conversely interested in isolating the regime in response to its human rights violations. In some ways, this was an unavoidable consequence of growing ties with the United States, ties that have brought a range of benefits for India.

Arab states’  have been surprisingly sanguine at India’s trade, cooperation and engagement with Israel. This is in part because the ideological content of the Arab-Israel and Palestine-Israel disputes has diminished, with international fora such as NAM playing a decreasingly relevant role in shaping the terms of the struggle. Additionally, many Arab states’ relationships with Israel have also improved greatly. Even those states whose relationship has greatly worsened, such as Iran, are largely uninterested in India’s own stance on the issue. Rajiv Sikri, a former Indian diplomat, even notes that ‘the Arab countries themselves, including Palestine … quietly hope that India could be a moderating influence on Israel’. 30

Lastly, India’s own concerns over terrorism have dovetailed with Israeli concerns over Hamas, Hezbollah and other such groups whose methods have included the use of terrorist attacks. This has dampened India’s inclination to portray groups such as Hamas as national liberation organizations, and increased incentives to understand the cross-national linkages between even disparate groups of Islamist characteristics. Overall, India has gained from its relationship with Israel highly valuable military equipment. As the India-US relationship matures, much of this will also be available from the United States. But Israel retains expertise and proficiency in several areas, such as avionics. This will undergird the relationship, at what is likely to be perceived as entirely acceptable cost.

Third, a bureaucratic basis has been laid for the relationship. This allows cooperation to continue below the political radar, and away from the ongoing Indian sensitivities over dealings with Israel. This is especially important at a time when a right-wing government governs in Israel, including strongly right-wing elements associated with the settler movement and holding hard-line positions on the peace process and policy in the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip. Previously, anything more than fleeting cooperation with such a government would have politically toxic, as reflected in the secrecy and ambivalence of prior Indian dealings with those like Dayan. But now that diplomatic relations have been normalized, and non-political officials of both countries meet each other on a regular basis, the bilateral relationship has been somewhat insulated.

Today, Indian intelligence officials have labelled Israel ‘the more reliable partner than the US in counter-terrorism operations’.31  India ‘has sought new technology and training methods’ from Israeli security agencies, creating a cadre of officials who will have contacts with and understanding of their Israeli counterparts.32  Defence officials meet, discuss requirements and share intelligence without fear that the ties will be abruptly severed. Scientists, in particular, afford a durable channel by which non-political technocrats can develop shared understandings and mutual familiarity. Some of these interactions are even institutionalized. The Indo-Israeli joint working group (JWG) on counter-terrorism was established in 2000, allowing a regularized forum for these ties to grow.33  This is why, even though a moderate cooling of India-Israel relations has been perceived to take place under the UPA government and high-level political exchanges have been scarce, underlying cooperation remains as vigorous as ever. All this indicates that the relationship has a robust base, free from short-term disturbances.


Notes :

1Ravish Tiwari and D.K. Singh, “Aiyar’s latest revolt: UPA depends on Israel, is ignoring Palestine justice,” Indian Express, September 25, 2010, http://www.indianexpress.com/newhttp://www.indianexpress.com/news/aiyars-latest-revolt-upa-depends-on-israel-is-ignoring-palestine-justice/687661/s/aiyars-latest-revolt-upa-depends-on-israel-is-ignoring-palestine-justice/687661/.

2Rajiv Sikri, Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India's Foreign Policy (New Delhi, India: SAGE Publications India, 2009), 144.

3Nehr.u: a Political Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), 571-572.

4Michael Brecher, India and World Politics: Krishna Menon's View of the World (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), 80; see also Muammad asanayn Haykal, Sphinx and Commissar: The Rise and Fall of Soviet Influence in the Arab World (London: Collins, 1978), 108-109.

5 M. J. Akbar, Nehru: the making of India (London: Penguin, 1989), 499.

6Hasan-Askari Rizvi, “Pakistan: Ideology and Foreign Policy,” Asian Affairs 10, no. 1 (April 1, 1983): 48-59.

7Efraim Inbar and Eytan Gilboa, eds., US-Israeli relations in a new era: issues and challenges after 9/11 (Taylor & Francis, 2009), 198.

8 Ashok Kapur, India: From Regional to World Power, India in the modern world 2 (London: Routledge, 2006), 214.

9Singh quoted in C. Raja Mohan, Crossing the Rubicon: The Shaping of India's New Foreign Policy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 220.

10 Srinath Raghavan, War and Peace in Modern India: a strategic history of the Nehru years (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2010), 64.

221Prithvi Ram Mudiam, India and the Middle East (British Academic Press, 1994), 170.

222 Teresita C Schaffer, India and the United States in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership (Washington, D.C: CSIS Press, 2009), 157.

223 Raja Mohan, Crossing the Rubicon.

224 H. V Pant, “India-Israel Partnership: Convergence and Constraints,” The Middle East Review of International Affairs 8, no. 4 (December 2004).

225 Mudiam, India and the Middle East, 171.

226 George Perkovich, India's Nuclear Bomb (University of California Press, 2002), 241.

227 Evan A. Feigenbaum, “India's Rise, America's Interest: the fate of the US-Indian partnership,” Foreign Affairs (April 2010), http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65995/evan-a-feigenbaum/indias-rise-americas-interest.

228C. Christine Fair, “India and Iran: New Delhi's Balancing Act,” Washington Quarterly 30, no. 3 (May 1, 2007): 145-159; Marie Lall, “Indo-Myanmar Relations in the Era of Pipeline Diplomacy,” Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 28, no. 3 (2006): 424–446; Ashley J. Tellis, The United States and India 3.0: Cave! Hic Dragones, Policy Brief (Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2009), http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=24058.

229 Raja Mohan, Crossing the Rubicon, 228.

20Schaffer, India and the United States in the 21st Century, 79; for a higher estimate, see Stephen P. Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta, Arming without Aiming: India's Military Modernization (Washington DC: Brookings Institution, 2010), 23.

222 Ajai Shukla, “India's arms import doubles in five years,” Business Standard, March 18, 2010.

22Inbar and Gilboa, US-Israeli relations in a new era, 198.

23Tanvi Madan, “India's International Quest for Oil and Natural Gas: Fueling Foreign Policy?,” India Review 9, no. 1 (2010): 2; Carin Zissis, “India’s Energy Crunch,” Council on Foreign Relations, October 23, 2007, http://www.cfr.org/publication/12200/indias_energy_crunch.html.

24Schaffer, India and the United States in the 21st Century, 158.

25 J. A Kirk, “Indian-Americans and the US–India Nuclear Agreement: Consolidation of an Ethnic Lobby?,” Foreign Policy Analysis 4, no. 3 (2008): 275–300.

26 Sikri, Challenge and Strategy, 146; Schaffer, India and the United States in the 21st Century, 100.

27 Varun Sood and James Lamont, “India set to launch nuclear submarine,” The Financial Times, July 9, 2009.

28 Sunil Dasgupta and Stephen P. Cohen, “Military Modernization in India,” Seminar, no. 611 (July 2010).

29Cohen and Dasgupta, Arming without Aiming, 38.

30Sikri, Challenge and Strategy, 147.

322 Inbar and Gilboa, US-Israeli relations in a new era, 202.

32Cohen and Dasgupta, Arming without Aiming, 141.

33 Pant, “India-Israel Partnership.”



India-Israel Relations: Security Implications for Pakistan


Mahwish Hafeez 
Research Fellow 
                                                                               Institute of Strategic Studies,                                                                                                         Islamabad   


(Ms. Mahwish Hafeez belongs to a Pashtun family from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She did her graduation from University of Punjab with journalism and sociology as major subjects. After graduation, she earned her Masters degree from Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi in the field of Defence and Diplomatic Studies. She has been associated as Research Fellow with Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad since November 2006.) 


Historical Background

           After pursuing an anti-Israel policy for almost four decades, India finally decided to establish full diplomatic relations with the State of Israel on January 29, 1992. Soon after the creation of Israel in May 1948, India not only opposed its creation but also raised its voice against the U.N. membership for Israel in 1949. But once Israel came into being and was accepted by the world community, India also decided to grant de jure recognition to Israel in 1950. The decision of granting de jure recognition instead of establishing full diplomatic relations was driven by a number of factors. India was a founder member of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which supported anti-colonial struggles around the world. India was also interested in countering Pakistan’s influence in the Arab world and to safeguard its oil supplies from the Arab countries particularly after the 1973 oil crisis. Besides, India also feared that by formally recognising Israel, it would alienate its large Muslim population. However, despite these considerations and an apparent pro-Arab stance, India and Israel ran covert diplomacy as is indicated by the reciprocal frequent visits of high level delegations from both the countries. These visits resulted in a number of secret agreements particularly in the field of arms supply and nuclear cooperation.       

           By 1990s, certain developments around the world compelled India to reconsider its policy vis-à-vis Israel. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, India not only lost an important arm and spare parts supplier, but also a reliable partner on the international diplomatic front. Israel, by that time had developed expertise in improving weapons systems of Soviet origin which could benefit India. It was also observed by India that the support it gave to the Arab world over the Israeli-Palestinian issue was not being reciprocated to India over Kashmir as the Organisation of the Islamic Countries (OIC), in almost all its meetings adopted resolutions on Kashmir calling for a plebiscite. China’s relationship with Israel was yet another factor that contributed in Indian policy shift towards Israel. By 1980s, despite absence of diplomatic relations, China and Israel were co-operating in the field of military procurements and technology transfer. This procurement of hi-tech weapons by China was a matter of great concern for India as despite the improvement in relationship, India perceived China as a major security threat. Similarly, shortly before its collapse, the USSR also exchanged its ambassador with Israel after years of strained diplomatic relations. With these considerations in mind, India, in a policy shift that is perceived as a most important step in Indian diplomacy, announced the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Israel. By taking this step, India also hoped that this decision would appease and soften the U.S. towards India.

        Since the establishment of Indo-Israel relations, there has been a growing cooperation between both the countries in various fields particularly defence and anti-terrorism. Despite attempts made by New Delhi to keep the flourishing bilateral relationship under wraps, the steady strengthening of India’s relations with Israel could not escape full public view. This bilateral relationship assumed an altogether new dynamic with the first ever visit by a ruling Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, to India in September 2003.

        Having ancient and illustrious civilisations, both India and Israel share a common national psyche which makes them natural allies. They see themselves as democracies surrounded by hostile and implacable adversaries. Both have fought wars against their respective opponents in almost every decade. Both the countries share concerns regarding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. In their perception, no other two countries in the world have suffered so much at the hands of “State-sponsored Islamic terrorism” as India and Israel. Their growing ties have the potential to make a significant impact on global politics by shifting the balance of power particularly in South Asia and the Middle East. The present paper attempts to analyse defence ties between the two countries and its impact on Pakistan.

 Defence ties and counter-terrorism cooperation

      India-Israel defence relations have been growing steadily. Both Israel and India aspire to become unchallenged military powers of the Middle East and South Asia, respectively. Israel helped India in its war against China in 1962 and against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971.  RAW, which was created in 1968, worked as an invisible actor in the formation of India’s domestic, regional and global policies. The role RAW played in dismembering Pakistan in 1971 is no secret. It is also said that before that, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban had held a secret meeting somewhere in Europe for two hours after which an agreement was signed for raising an army consisting of Bengalis to be supported by Israel. Israel also agreed to send its experts to train this army besides providing arms and ammunition. A new role was given to RAW by Indira Gandhi, commonly known as the “Indira Doctrine”,   in early 1980s to undertake covert operations in neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan.

      Similarly, tacit Israeli help was available to the Indian army during the Kargil crisis which, according to the Israeli ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, turned around the situation in India’s favour.  It is said that Israel had sent laser guided missiles to India, making it possible for the Indian Air Force to destroy bunkers in the Kargil mountains.   India, on the other hand, helped Israel during the 1967 Middle East conflict by covertly sending military equipment to Israel.  Though never acknowledged in public, this cooperation signalled a shared security understanding. 

 As has been mentioned above, even prior to the establishment of full diplomatic relations, high-level Indian and Israeli defence delegations visited each other’s country. In 1963, General Shaltiel, Isareli Chief of Army Staff, visited India for a secret meeting with his Indian counterpart.  In 1979, Indian Prime Minister Moraji Desai secretly invited Israeli leader Moshe Dayan. The cooperation between the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Israel’s Agency for Intelligence and Special Operations (the Mossad) began in the second half of 1960s and Indira Gandhi continued the policy of covert relationship with Israel. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, an elite commando unit, the Indian National Security Guards (NSG) was formed with the responsibility of protecting the dignitaries. The NSG allegedly had links with the Israel Security Agency (ISA) and a number of NSG commandos were even sent to Israel for training. Establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries opened the way for formal structure and opportunities for cooperation.

 In the 1980s, it was suspected that Israel and India were secretly planning to undertake a joint operation against the Pakistani nuclear facility in Kahuta. However, the operation was called off due to fears of a retaliatory attack on Indian nuclear facilities. Besides, it was also believed that the CIA had tipped off Pakistani President Gen. Zia-ul-Haq about these plans.  Since at that time Pakistan was a frontline State against Soviet Union and a close ally, the U.S. did not want it to lose focus from the Afghan jihad. Therefore, the State Department also warned India against any such attack.

  In early 1990s, Pakistan suspected that India was working on a process of inertial confinement fusion in order to produce and develop nuclear weapons including the hydrogen bomb. On the other hand, both India and Israel had suspicions regarding Pakistan’s nuclear programme and its transfer to the Arab countries. Thus, India and Israel found that intelligence sharing would benefit both.   

      In January 1996, there were reports that India was contemplating of placing a $100 million order with the Elta Electronics for 90 radar-jamming pads for its air force. In June 1996, Abdul Kalam, the brain behind India’s nuclear programme and military projects like missiles, Light Combat Aircraft and battle tank Arjun, visited Israel. His visit to Israel came to light after he had returned to New Delhi.

      After Pakistan detonated its nuclear device in May 1998, intelligence was received that six ultra-modern aircraft, loaded with sophisticated missiles and flown by Israeli pilots, had landed on different air bases in Indian-occupied Kashmir. With the help of Israelis, the Indians also laid Electronic Counter Measure (ECM) frequency-operated equipment network to neutralise Pakistan’s electronic network at its nuclear facilities, particularly at the Kahuta plant. As a result, Pakistan placed more than 125 surveillance planes over Kahuta round the clock.  This speculation of a strike on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities was once again raised after Sharon’s visit to India when a decision was taken to keep a mutually watchful eye on “fanatic Islam”. 

  Furthermore, it was also reported that Indian Air Force had bought a sophisticated Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) system from Israel for developing air combat tactics.  This deal was termed as the “first major defence purchase” from Israel and ACMI was installed at the high security Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE), located at Jamnagar air base. Indian Navy had also bought electronic support measure (ESM) sensors from Israel for installing in the solitary operational aircraft carriers INS Virat.

  Although this relationship is multifaceted, it is the menace of terrorism that particularly holds the attention of both these countries. India and Israel describe fighting terrorism as a major national challenge. Both consider themselves democratic, pluralistic States with large domestic Muslim minorities. In fact, immediately after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Indian Defence Minister Sharad Pawar announced that normalisation of relationship with Israel has paved the way to drawing on Israel’s successful experience to curb terrorism. Though he later denied issuing the statement, but couple of months later, he, as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, led a delegation to an agricultural exhibition in Tel Aviv. The delegation also included a  high level military team that visited Israeli military facilities including the Israeli Anti-Terror Unit.  Both the countries blame their neighbours for sponsoring terrorism in their countries. In this regard, the proposal made by Indian National Security Advisor Barjesh Mishra for the formation of a formal alliance between India, U.S. and Israel to combat the common threat of “Islamic fundamentalism” in a speech to the American Jewish committee in May 2003,  was an important development. He argued that democratic nations face the menace of international terrorism and should form a “viable alliance” and develop a multilateral mechanism to counter the menace. He also added that  “distinctions sought to be made between freedom fighters and terrorists propagate a bizarre logic.”  These observations were strongly supported by Israel which declared that an “unwritten and abstract” axis with India and the U.S. has been formed to combat terrorism.    

  Since then, India and Israel have been cooperating closely on the counter-terrorism front. India has been learning form the Israeli experience of tackling cross-border infiltration. Both the countries feel that terrorism in their respective countries not only comes from the local marginalised groups but also aided by the neighbouring States. A declaration was signed during Sharon’s visit to India in which States and individuals that aided terrorism across borders or provided sanctuary or financial support, training and patronage, were condemned.

      India and Israel exchange crucial intelligence information on terrorist groups. Israel has been providing India material and training to fight dissidents in Kashmir. It has also provided India important logistical support such as specialised surveillance equipment, cooperation in intelligence gathering, joint exercises and cooperation to stop money-laundering and terror-funding.  Tactics used by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the guerrilla and urban warfare in its war against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip serves as a good example for the Indian security forces in countering insurgency in Kashmir. Israel’s experience in training, equipping and operating elite undercover units in Palestine to gather intelligence, spot targets and engaging Palestinian gunmen is yet another example for the Indian security forces in Kashmir.  In 1991, it was reported in the media that about 600 Mossad or Israeli commandos were present in Indian-held Kashmir.  In 1993, during the Hazrat Bal crisis, around five hundred Israeli commandos were flown in to Occupied Kashmir at the request of then Prime Minister Narisimha Rao.

  Israeli army officers have also been imparting training to the Indian army officers to curb the freedom movement in Indian-held Kashmir. The Israeli Army Chief, Major General Avi Mazrahi, also visited Indian-occupied Kashmir on September 10, 2008, and interacted with senior Indian army officers.  He gave a lecture on counterterrorism, and was given a briefing on security situation. A team of Israeli experts also visited Indian-occupied Kashmir and surveyed sites for establishing new electronic warfare detachments along the Line of Control (LoC) and the working boundary. In addition to that, another team visited Indian-held Kashmir and advised the Indian army on improvement of LoC fencing including construction of walls at selected locations.  This fencing of LOC is also fitted with Israeli anti-personnel devices like thermal imagers.  Indian fencing of the LoC can be equated with the separation wall build by Israel in occupied Palestinian territory.  Furthermore, following Israel’s footsteps, India has also been trying to bring about demographic changes in Kashmir so that the Muslim majority can be converted into a minority. 

  During Sharon’s visit, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Josef Labed declared that Israel would strengthen India’s defence capability by giving it latest technology to fight terrorism as both Israel and India are the victims of terrorist attacks by the “fanatic Muslims”.  Soon after Sharon’s visit, India and Israel decided to hold a joint military exercise for their elite special forces to further strengthen defence collaboration. Israel has also been training Indian soldiers for specialised anti-insurgence strikes, adding to their training in desert, mountains, forests and counter-hijacking and hostage crisis situation. India also bought Tavor assault rifles, Galil sniper rifles, night vision and laser range finding and targeting equipment in order to improve the capabilities of its forces to effectively tackle the insurgency. Both the countries decided to expand the range of issues discussed at the joint working Counter-Terrorism Group. Seminars on the issues of border security, suicide bombers, aviation and financing of terrorism are held by Indian and Israeli experts.    

  It is believed that Israel, in view of its size, could be seeking strategic depth by setting up logistical bases in the Indian Ocean for its navy and for that, cooperation with the Indian Navy is essential which is taking place in many ways. In this regard, in addition to seven already procured Israeli Barak anti-missile defence systems, the Indian Navy intends to acquire about ten more.  This system will provide India with a close-in-point defence system against the Harpoon and Exocet missiles acquired by Pakistan. 

      As has been mentioned earlier, with the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the arms market for India also diminished. Israel, on the other hand, with specialisation in upgrading Russian equipment, emerged as an alternative source of hi-tech defence procurement. Israel has been playing a vital role in India’s attempts to enhance its conventional defences in order to counter Pakistan by providing surface-to-air missiles, avionics, sophisticated sensors to monitor cross-border infiltration, remotely-piloted drones and artillery. In June 2002, when India was planning to carry out a limited military strike against Pakistan as part of “Operation Parakram”, Israel supplied hardware through special planes.

  A number of Israeli weapons technologies are developed with funds from the U.S. As a result, the U.S. has a strong say in matters of Israeli military sales to other countries. The nature of relations between India, Israel and the U.S. can be gauged from the fact that U.S. opposition led to the cancellation of the sale of Israeli Phalcon Airborne Early Warning and Control (AWACS) radar systems to China in 1999, but allowed the same to India in 2004. An AWACS is a control centre which can track 100 targets and intercept at least half of them simultaneously with aircraft and SAMS with each engagement closely monitored and reported in real time. The Phalcon early-warning systems would give India the capability to look nearly 200 kilometres inside Pakistan territory and would make it difficult for Pakistani troops and war planes to move without being detected. Air Marshal (Retd) B. K. Pandey explained the function of AWACS in these words “ The AWACS will help us keep a watch on our neighbours, especially Pakistan. It will keep an eye on all air fields across the border and also keep a watch on air-borne aircraft. Once an aircraft is spotted, it would give it an ID and help track its movement”.  The Phalcon system acts as a major force multiplier which would drastically alter the military balance in South Asia. Apart from detection of incoming cruise missiles and aircraft in all weather conditions, AWACS are also able to direct air defence fighters during combat operations against enemy jets. The first of the three Phalcon (AWA&C) arrived in India on May 24, 2009, whereas the second arrived in March 2010 and the last one was expected to be inducted by the end of 2010. Once the third AWACS is inducted, India plans to go for two more AWACS and a wide array of radars in its effort to set up five nodes of Integrated Air Command and Control System across the country with the first one in the Western sector facing Pakistan.  

      Indo-Israeli military, intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation is extremely close. Over the past several years, India has purchased military equipment from Israel worth billions of dollars which also includes the Green Pines radar system employed by Israel’s Arrow anti-ballistic missile batteries.  India’s defence-related purchases from Israel amount to some $1.5 billion annually.  This relationship has had a very positive impact on the Israeli economy which is dependent on its defence industry. Defence deals help fund the country’s research and development of advanced weaponry. Israel has become India’s largest defence supplier, and by some accounts has overtaken Russia.  From anti-missile systems to hi-tech radars and from drones to night-vision equipment, there has been no limit to Indo-Israeli defence cooperation. According to figures released by the Israeli Defence Ministry, India accounts for 50 per cent of Israel’s military exports.

  India-Israel military relationship has transformed from a buyer-seller one to that of joint production and research. Both the countries are working to upgrade their existing weapon technologies and development of new technologies. Work on the development of an unmanned helicopter has already been initiated by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Israel Aerospace Industries’ unmanned air vehicle division, Malat. 

      The high level of cooperation clearly indicates long-term interest in joint development between Israel and India on advance weapons technology that has the potential uses as space weapons. India has already imported and modified Israeli technology in missile defence. One such example is the long range tracking radar (LRTR) which was used in the “exo-atmospheric”  BMD system that intercepted an incoming Prithvi missile in November 2006. This technology originated in the Israeli Green Pine radar and India modified it making it capable of tracking intermediate-range ballistic missiles. India has also decided to launch joint programmes with Israel in the field of electronic warfare.       

  In July 2007, India’s cabinet committee on security chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved a $ 2.5 billion defence project with Israel for the development of missiles capable of intercepting aircraft and other aerial targets at a range of 70 kilometres by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). In August 2008, both the countries agreed to jointly develop a new version of the Spyder surface-to-air missile system. In March 2009, IAI signed a $ 1.4 billion contract with India for air defence systems, including seaborne and shore-based systems against missile attack.  G-550 “conformal” AWAC (airborne warning and control system), the latest offering presented by the Israeli companies during the Aero India 2009 show, was one of the main attractions.

  Cooperation in the nuclear field is another very important dimension of Indo-Israeli relations which has been used to maintain qualitative superiority over Pakistan. Clandestine cooperation in the nuclear field between India and Israel is traced back to 1962 when the chairman of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission visited India.  India wanted to expand its nuclear armament programme and in this regard Israel possessed the most advanced technical know-how. On the other hand, Israel lacked the needed raw material and India had the largest thorium reserves in the world. A group of Jewish financers in Switzerland agreed to finance the two and a half million pound project for an extraction plant in India in exchange for the use of facilities and its products by Israel. This extraction plant was established at Jaduguda.

      It is also speculated that the Indian nuclear tests of May 1998 were actually conducted to test Israeli nuclear technology, as there are no testing grounds available in Israeli territory.

  Indo-Israeli relationship witnessed yet another milestone with India launching an Israeli spy satellite into space much to the distress of the Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan and Iran. The TecSar satellite, also referred to as the Polaris, is said to have enhanced footage technology which allows it to transmit images regardless of daytime and weather conditions.  This indicates that both India and Israel also want to develop close relations in the space sector with Israel reducing its dependence on the U.S. On April 20, 2009, India launched an Israeli border-control imaging satellite that enables it to monitor its borders with Bangladesh, China and Pakistan. India and Israel are also working on India’s next generation satellite RISAT 2.

  In the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, India also bought from Israel the aerostat radar system to help defend its coastline in a deal worth $600 million.  Israel was quick to despatch two high-ranking security men to India to assist with the investigation in Mumbai. It was also reported that an official of the Israeli foreign ministry and another from the Shin Bet security service were already in Mumbai taking part in the investigation and coordinating security at Israeli sites in India with local authorities. 

  Both India and Israel have gone out of their way to enhance and develop relations not only at the government level but also in the private sector which has enabled them to concentrate on and build strong defence ties.

Implication for Pakista

  The growing Indo-Israeli relationship has not only raised alarm bells in  Pakistan but also in the entire Muslim world as it has given Israel access to and partnership with the main Indian Ocean power. With one country policing the region of oil wealth, the other is engaged in an effort to contain the growing influence of China, thereby serving the interest of a third party, i.e., the U.S. 

      India and Israel have come together on the common objective of weakening Pakistan while, ironically, the U.S. turns a blind eye. India considers Pakistan as an obstacle in its plans to extend hegemony to the neighbouring countries. Pakistan, as a frontline State in the global war on terror, has been a victim of terrorism itself, and despite making huge sacrifices in terms of human and material loss, has repeatedly come under pressure by the U.S. to “do more” to tackle the problem of growing militancy in Afghanistan. The Mumbai attacks provided India a golden opportunity to malign and isolate Pakistan.

      Israel, on the other hand, has never been comfortable with Pakistan’s nuclear programme. It fears that nuclear Pakistan is a source of strength to the Arab world. Since Israel’s security lies at the base of American foreign policy in the region, the U.S. wants to defend it against any potential danger. For the U.S., a powerful and progressive India supported by Israel is perhaps also a means to counter China.  An India-Israel-U.S. dialogue held in Delhi on February 6 and 7, 2003, concluded that the three governments would set up “a joint trilateral mechanism to pool resources, capabilities and experience of the three countries for concerted action against international terrorism”.   In this regard, the Indo-Israeli lobbies in the U.S. have been playing an active role in launching an anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan campaign and have brought in a socio-religious dimension by equating the war on terror with war on Islam.

  Following the suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008, Pakistan and its intelligence agency were blamed. The incident was used as an excuse by the Indian government to announce that with increased security threat to Indian assets in Afghanistan, India would send a fresh contingent of its Indo-Tibetan Border Police troops to the war-torn country to enhance the security of key Indian assets.   There is also speculation that in order to control this strategically important country linking Central and South Asia and to sabotage Pakistan’s political and economic interests there, India wants to deploy 150,000 troops in Afghanistan.

  It is also believed that the unrest in FATA and Swat regions of Pakistan has much to do with the Indian presence in Afghanistan as arms and ammunition are allegedly being supplied generously by RAW agents from there. The Indian Border Road Organisation is being used to facilitate the supply of weapons to anti-Pakistan elements.   Apart from its embassy in Kabul, India has established four consulates in cities which are close to Pakistani border  and training camps in Afghanistan where Indian intelligence officers are busy in their effort to destabilise Pakistan by sending weapons to the separatist elements in Balochistan as well as in FATA and the Swat region. This view was validated by an independent and renowned scholar, Christine Fair of RAND Corporation, who said that “having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity. Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Kandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Balochistan.”

 These Indian consulates provide cover to the Indian intelligence agencies to run covert operations against Pakistan. It is also said that madrasas of Indian Muslim clerics are functioning under the patronage of RAW and Mossad where young boys including Afghans, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Caucasians are recruited and trained to become ideologically motivated terrorists and suicide bombers before they are infiltrated into Pakistan where they join the Taliban militants and fight against Pakistani security forces.

  Theses militants are also responsible for the unprecedented rise in sectarian violence in Pakistan, besides destroying the social infrastructure and carrying out most heinous crimes against humanity – all in the name of Islam. During Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Pakistan, President Musharaf even presented him maps of locations with suspected Indian activity and urged him to rein in the Indians. Pakistan’s apprehensions of encirclement by India rose with the establishment of the Indian Air Force’s new facility in Farkhor, Tajikistan, which may house MI-17 helicopter gunships. The Indian army is also providing training to the Afghan National Army.  

 The absence of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Israel has been exploited by India. The growing cooperation between India and Israel certainly causes great discomfort to Islamabad to the extent that Pakistan even reconsidered its policy of non-recognition of the State of Israel. However, due to strong public outcry, the government of Pakistan could not change its policy of non-recognition of Israel.   

 After the Mumbai attacks, accusing fingers were pointed by India towards Pakistan and the ISI. The purpose was perhaps to tarnish the image of Pakistan and get the ISI declared a rogue institution. There were some reports that Israeli intelligence and military authorities were collaborating with their Indian counterparts to work out a plan for surgical strikes inside Pakistan against militants. Some quarters in the Indian establishment as well as some of the Israeli experts also suggested that India should learn some lessons and emulate Israel in dealing with Pakistan. They argued that, like Israel, India also has a right to defend itself and has a duty to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Others suggested deniable covert action as a means to teach Pakistan a lesson.  Offensive diplomacy was used by India by sharing the so-called evidence of Pakistan’s support to the Mumbai attacks with other nations in order to isolate Pakistan for allegedly supporting terror as an instrument of foreign policy. It was also reported that Israel despatched a number of intelligence officers to India to assist in analysing the terrorist plot.   

  The events of 9/11 quickened the pace of Indian, Israeli and American strategic partnership. This is also reflected in the increasing cooperation between the Jewish community in the U.S. and the Indian diaspora. Jewish organisations in the U.S. share a very close relationship with the Indian-American community and together they have played a vital role in helping these two countries develop their relationship. Following Mumbai incident, around 100 influential Indian-American leaders of a newly formed task force of Indian American Organisation (IATF) asked top lawmakers in Washington to reckon the Mumbai attack as “your own problem and not merely an Indian problem”  and demanded that the U.S. pressurise Pakistan to act fast against those responsible for the carnage. The IATF also emphasised that, unlike in the past, Pakistan should not be simply let off this time.  The group also released its “information document” authored by U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), a group founded in the aftermath of 9/11 with the help of American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the American Israel Political Action Committee (AJPAC).  In recent years, the Jewish-Indian lobby has been playing a vital role in silencing the voices that are perceived as anti-Israel or anti-India. This lobby has worked together on a number of domestic and foreign issues like hatred, crime, immigration, anti-terrorism legislation and most importantly, backing pro-Israeli and pro-India candidates in the political arena.

      Following the Indian government’s success in securing a deal with the U.S. that gave India access to civil nuclear technology despite the fact that it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Indians were also successful in removing the issue of Kashmir from the job description of late Mr. Richard Holbrooke. This omission was seen as a significant diplomatic concession for the Indians which reflected their warm ties with the U.S.  With the help of the Jewish lobby, the Indians have been trying to distract the attention of the Obama administration from Kashmir and highlighting the menace of terrorism relating to Afghanistan and Pakistan thereby exaggerating Islamophobia in the U.S. and other Western countries.

  Using the phenomenon of terrorism and the anti-Islam approach of the West, both India and Israel have been convincing the world that a nuclearised Pakistan is sponsoring cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan and India. According to some reports that appeared in the media last year, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tried to persuade President Obama that Pakistan has collapsed and its nuclear assets are already partly in the hands of extremists and there is no way to prevent them from taking control. He further added that Israel and India have identical views about the situation.   However, before reaching any conclusion, the Obama administration and the international community at large must keep in mind, the huge sacrifices made by Pakistani people and the Army in the fight against the menace of terrorism.

      Recently, a new phenomenon has emerged in the form a computer worm ‘Stuxnet”  that targets industrial and factory systems. This worm which is described as one of the “most refined pieces of malware ever discovered”  has been most active in Iran. In fact, figures indicate that some 60% of computers infected by Stuxnet are located in Iran. Security experts believe that the likely target of the virus is the controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant and it was created by Israel as apparently there was no financial motivation behind the attack and the aim seems to be to sabotage systems. There are speculations that Israel’s military intelligence Unit 8200, which is known for its advanced Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities is responsible for creating this virus. Iran had to suspend work at its nuclear-field production facilities as a result of Stuxnet virus and it will take Iran at least two years to fully recover from this malware. It is being pointed out that Stuxnet has proved to be even better than a military strike as there were no fatalities or a full-blown war. This new development requires Pakistan to be on guard as Pakistan’s nuclear programme has also been a source of concern to Israel, India and the United States.   


              The India-Israel nexus has never been a secret, but in view of the current scenario, this collusion is now presenting a real threat to the security and territorial integrity of Pakistan. Recently, India allocated a huge amount of Rs. 147,344 for the defence expenditure in the Union Budget of 2010-2011. Pakistan is finding it increasingly difficult to match the conventional military capability of its neighbour. It has especially expressed its concern regarding the sale of the Arrow anti-missile system that would neutralise part of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal by seriously affecting its ballistic missile capability.

                     On terrorism front, before taking advice from Israel, India must keep in mind that even after more than 60 years of military action, Israel is still not able to suppress the Palestinians. The use of brutal force against the innocent Palestinians clearly indicates the complete failure of Israel’s anti- terrorism policy.

                      Taking advantage of the post 9/11 environment in the world, an effort was made to equate the unrest in Indian occupied Kashmir with terrorism. However, the recent turmoil in Kashmir where more than 110 people lost their lives in less than four months clearly indicates the gravity of situation. The fact that the uprising was purely indigenous and Pakistan or any other country had nothing to do with it has already been acknowledged not only by India itself but also the world at large which proves the fact that the use of  force will never be able to silence the cry for justice. Both India and Israel along with United States needs to understand that denying people their basic human rights would only result in frustration leading to more terrorism and violence

                  Due to the presence of the Jewish lobby in the U.S., Israel exerts unprecedented influence on U.S. policies which in the current situation has been benefiting India. As an ally in the war on terror, Pakistan should pressurise the U.S. to take care of its interests. Being the sole superpower in the world, it is America’s moral responsibility to ensure peace in the world which cannot be achieved without justice to the oppressed people in Kashmir and Palestine.

                As far as Pakistan is concerned, the fact cannot be ignored that in order to deal with the growing challenges to its security, Pakistan will have to first put its own house in order. The fast economic decline coupled with security and political instability also poses a threat to the country thereby hampering its ability to effectively deal with the external threats and protect its interests.    


    India-Israel Relations - Convergence & Divergence


 Priya Suresh

             Head, Department of International Studies

                                                                                Stella Maris College (Autonomous),                                                                                                                 Chennai,India

(M.A, M.Phil, PG Diploma in Journalism & Mass  Communication. Doing Ph.D. Specialises in Theory of International relations,South Asia and Asia  Pacific -with special focus on China, International Security, India’s Foreign Policy.)


India-Israel relations lay dormant for almost four decades, the transition in the global strategic environment compelled India to renew her diplomatic ties with Israel. The end of the cold war provided space for regional powers to create policies that optimally suited their security interest.India’s move toward liberalization forced her to open her markets and was convinced that an assertive and independent foreign policy would enhance her on the new mission that she has embarked .The changing international milieu provided India with an opportunity to reorient her foreign policy. The India-Israel entente in 1992 was a step towards reorienting India’s foreign Policy a step moving from ideological and past rhetoric to one driven by pragmatism and national interest. The India-Israel relationship in the twenty first century can be termed as one of stable convergence benefiting both the countries.

Four decades of Divergence:

Being a part of the Asian continent Israel has always been keen to maintain cordial relations with the Asian neighbours. The Arab-Israeli conflict made Israel the pariah of the region and forced her to find new friends and markets1. Though India recognized Israel in September 1950 full diplomatic relations were not established till 1953. The idea of Zionism was seen amongst the leaders in the Congress Party as a Western enterprise. Israel was even less accepted in the Indian context as it was seen as a State established out of Palestine2 . Right after India’s independence in 1947, India had an opportunity to articulate its independent position3 at the international level when the issue came up before the United Nations representing Asia at the 11 member United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP)4, India’s stand was one of sympathetic overtures towards the Arabs. This view point culminated with the idea of the Congress that rejected the two nation theory. However with the world recognizing by and large the creation of the new state of Israel, reluctantly India too accepted Israel. However the host of events in the Middle Eastern politics, the emerging friendship between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser turned India’s attention from Israel. Occasional military assistance rendered by Israel to India during the 1962 confrontation  with China and the Indo-Pakistani war in 1965 and 19715 did not enhance the diplomatic relations.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975 recognised the Palestine Liberation Organisation and in 1980 she upgraded the Palestinian Mission in New Delhi to a full fledged embassy offering them diplomatic privileges and immunities6. Even after the Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed in 1979, New Delhi’s approach towards Israel continued to be hostile. From 1982-1988 no full consular relations were allowed between the two countries7, but a notable shift was seen during this period under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The ideological rhetoric of the past had no attraction for the young leader who sought to carry forward the country into the next century as modern and technologically developed country8 . It was during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure there was a perceptible shift in the India-Israel relations. But series of events stalled the process of normalization. The Israeli response to the Palestinian intifada in the 1980 eroded the gains that Israel had made in the 1980s9 and India was also hesitant on her part to recognize Israel to the fullest extent.

The end of cold war the world witnessed a dramatic realignment and shift in the balance of power politics and India had to accommodate herself to this strategic shift. Economic liberalisation, new markets and new alliances was the need of the hour and India was realigning herself to accommodate these changes. The Middle East Peace process was yet another milestone in this pro Israeli tilt wherein both the parties involved in the dispute were seeking a solution to this protracted conflict10 . Despite criticism of abandoning the traditional policy that Congress pursued towards Israel, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao embarked on a new mission of normalizing relations with Israel. On January 29, 1992 India announced the establishment of normal diplomatic relations with Israel11.

Areas of Convergence:

As the Indian economy moved on the path of liberalization the success of market economy depended heavily on the financial investments and technological cooperation from the West especially the US and since late 1940s US has been pressuring India to modify its policy towards Israel12 . Strategic imperatives have been the key factor in India- Israel relations. With the collapse of the Soviet Union India was forced to look for reliable source for sophisticated weapons and the obvious and pronounced choice was United States of America and Israel. For Israel association with India was a two pronged approach one in terms of huge market and second was to contain Pakistan who had committed itself towards helping the states in the Middle East against Israel.

Step towards minimal engagement in the India-Israel relations began with the visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in 1993. Both India and Israel were firm to enhance their strategic cooperation despite differences that persisted on issues like the Middle East Peace process and Israel’s relations with China. India and Israel relations revolve around certain broad areas of security cooperation13. Israel assists India in the designing and development activities like that of armaments and combat vehicles, naval technology, rockets and missiles, communication radars, electronic warfare, artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, terrain research, explosives, safety material, life sciences and nuclear medicine14.There has been significant increase in the bilateral relations between the two countries both in the field of defense and in non-military goods. Israel is committed to enhance scientific and technological ties with India. Israel’s long experience in training, equipping and operating elite undercover units deployed in Palestinian towns and villages to gather intelligence, spot targets and engage Palestinian gunmen is useful for the Indian forces facing similar situation in Kashmir and Northeast15.

Israel had in the mid 1980s embarked on a programme with substantial financial and technological support from the United States to develop and produce a terminal phase ballistic missile defense system16.The potential buyer of this BMD technology is India and both the countries have been involved in technological cooperation on missile defense since the late 1990s17. Israeli President Weizman during his visit to India in 1996 expressed keen interest in lending expertise in fields of missile technology and avionics to India and offered both investment and technical cooperation in production of military aircraft, reverse engineering and up gradation of weapon systems18. Airborne surveillance has been one of the key areas in the India-Israel defense cooperation. India’s attempts to shore up its conventional defenses in order to counter its nuclear-armed adversary, Pakistan, have been greatly supported by Israeli weaponry. This includes surface-to-air missiles, avionics, and sophisticated sensors to monitor cross-border infiltration, remotely piloted drones, and artillery19. It is instructive to note that Israel sent its laser guided missiles to India during the Indo-Pak Kargil war of 1999, making it possible for the Indian Mirages to destroy Pakistani bunkers in the mountains 20. Also, when India was planning to undertake a limited military strike against Pakistan in June 2002 as part of “Operation Parakram,” Israel supplied hardware through special planes after a visit by the Director-General of Israeli Defense Ministry21.

From the year 1998 onwards the India- Israel defense ties gained momentum. In the year 1998 Israel agreed to export the Green in surveillance/engagement radar system (which is used in the AWS) to India22. Since 2000 India has bought military hardware and software worth US $ 7 billion from Israel23.In 2001 it became known that India sought to purchase the interceptor of the  AWS-the Arrow II to be used in conjunction with its indigenously developed Akash theater defense missile24. In 2004 India had talks with Israel about joint production of a long range missile under which Israel’s defense industry In September 2004, India had talks with Israel about joint production of a long-range missile under which Israel's defense industry was bidding for the upgrade of the Indian Air Force's MIG-27 strike aircraft, the avionics upgrade of the Indian Navy's Ka-25 anti-submarine helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft25. In August 2007, India proposed defense collaboration with Israel in developing sophisticated unmanned combat helicopters for the Navy, which would need 40-50 such helicopters, and which was called a revolutionary step for the navies of both countries26.The most notable venture is the missile system under the US $ 2.5 billion project to develop an advanced Barak medium-range surfaceto-air missile system for the IAF and Army27. Israel will provide "Phalcons"("eyes in the skies") to detect enemy air intrusions 28. India had earlier bought 14 Barak-I anti-missile defense systems for the Navy followed by the Python air-to-air missiles, Crystal Maze PGMs, Derby air-to-air missiles, Delilah-II air-launched cruise missiles and Gabriel-III sea-skimming anti-ship missiles29. Israel’s defense industry has won a global accolade in terms of integrating the old weapon system into the new one, its technological advancement in the fields of satellite imagery, rockets and nuclear fields has been widely  areas of the international arms market, even compared to American and European products30. Israel's state-of-the-art weapon systems will help India in restructuring its armed forces to meet the defense requirements of the 21st century31.

India’s T-72 tanks and howitzers might also benefit from Israeli technology, and the army considered buying Israeli unmanned air vehicles, including 16 hunter and seekers at $1.6 million each, according to 1994 reports32. A year later, the two countries signed a $50 million deal for Harpy reconnaissance drones. India is considering Haron and Hermes vehicles for border operations, according to the Deccan Herald33 India operates around 70 Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-built Searcher Mk 1 and Mk 2 and Heron UAVs, as well as 30 Harpy ground attack drones designed to detect and destroy enemy radars34. India in 2008 launched the Israeli spy satellite. The launch of Tecsar satellite known as Polaris opened a new stage in India-Israel strategic relations and added a new factor in the complex security scenario in the Middle East35.India launched an Israeli made spy satellite from Sriharikota, a twenty four hour surveillance on its International borders and the 300kg radar-imaging Israeli satellite was launched via India’s indigenous Polar Satellite Launch vehicle (PSLV) and it will be positioned 500 km above the earth36 .In 2009 India signed a massive US $ 1.4 billion deal with Israeli Aerospace Industry for the supply and joint development of medium-range surface to air missile (MRSAM)37. Israel has proposed selling the 'Skylite-B' micro-UAVs for Indian Special Forces. Under the US$1.1-billion AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) project, Israel will provide "Phalcons"("eyes in the skies") from mid-2008 onwards to detect enemy air intrusions38. Besides, India is keen to procure four more EL/M-2083 Aerostat radars, similar to the radars inducted in 2004-0539. India had earlier bought 14 Barak-I anti-missile defense systems for the Navy followed by the Python air-to-air missiles, Crystal Maze PGMs, Derby air-to-air missiles, Delilah-II air-launched cruise missiles and Gabriel-III sea-skimming anti-ship missiles40.

On the strategic plane India-Israel relations yield good benefits for both the countries. Given the present economic constraints on both countries, India’s quest for independence in technological expertise and Israel’s need to maintain a sizable defense industry in order to preserve its current qualitative superiority over its adversaries, are goals that are likely to be beyond the reach of either of them individually41. On the civilian level, there appear to be numerous fields where judicious meshing of the two nations’ respective relative advantages in competitively priced human resources, abundance of natural resources, geopolitical location and geographical expanse, entrepreneurial ingenuity, technological and scientific ability, technical know-how, and managerial skills could produce synergetic benefits for both of them. Combining efforts could result in productive agricultural and industrial R&D ventures, and infrastructure ventures that would be beyond the reach of the individual capacities of either India or Israel on their own42.

For Israel the association with India would pay-off in terms of significant political, diplomatic, bilateral and strategic benefits. Support from India would be crucial for Israel, especially in asserting its interest in the international organization. With the kind of threat matrices in the region Israel’s defense requirements are high and it warrants Israel to maintain a strong Military Industrial complex. Leaning on US for its huge military aid would be extremely unfavorable for Israel and hence strategic diversification seems to be extremely crucial and India presents herself as viable and potential market. Israel instead of viewing India just as a market for exports to subsidize its defense research and development could exploit India’s desire to acquire advanced technological prowess based to as large a degree as possible on indigenous and autonomous proficiency43. This would involve embarking on a long-term development of technological capabilities that serve the specific strategic needs of both nations which are unlikely to be satisfactorily provided or developed from other sources44. There is also an emerging naval cooperation between India and Israel that would help in the development of the logistic infrastructure that would facilitate sea-borne second strike capability45.

For India the pay offs would be equally beneficial as this relationship with Israel would help in synthesizing benefits to both civilian and military sectors. Collaborations with Israel may help India to enhance its military capability and also to develop a high level indigenous technological proficiency in the long run46 . Israeli expertise in techniques of border surveillance, sensor technology and electronic detection could contribute towards the prevention of undetected incursions into sensitive regions along the Indian frontiers47 . There are other areas of collaboration like upgrading the Indian army. Avionics, radar equipment, missile technology and other electronic systems48.

The events of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent ‘war on terror’ served to further strengthen the relationship49. With the changing geo strategic considerations in Asia, with US calling India its natural partner and ally there is an emerging trilateral dimension to the India-Israel relations. US is strongly committed to nurturing this collaboration and wants genuine stability and peace in the region. For India also has financial concerns as Israeli defense equipment is costly, and it is doubtful whether New Delhi will be offered the generous financing terms it enjoys with Russia. Israel’s defense industry, which has financial concerns of its own, might be unable to offer such benefits50.There are foreign policy concerns that India has to take care of, the Israeli’s assistance to Chinese defense project such as F -10 fighter is a worrisome factor. However the external security predicament that India faces pressurizes India to acquire most advanced missile systems and Israel has always remained the most trusted defense partner.


End Notes :

1 Inbair Efraim, The Indian-Israel Entente, Orbis, Winter 2004, p.1

2 Ibid, p.2

3 Kumaraswamy, P. R.(2002) 'India and Israel: emerging partnership', Journal of Strategic Studies,

   25: 4,192 — 206

DOI: 10.1080/01402390412331302915,URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402390412331302915

4 Ibid, p. 4

5 Ibid, p.2

6 Ibid, p.6

7 Ibid, p.2

8 Kumaraswamy, P. R.(2002) 'India and Israel: emerging partnership', Journal of Strategic Studies,

25: 4,192 — 206 DOI: 10.1080/01402390412331302915,URL: ttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402390412331302915

9 Ibid, p7

10 Ibid, p.8

11 Ibid, p.8

12 Ibid, p.8

13 Kumaraaswamy P.R., Strategic Partnership between Israel and India, Middle East Review of International Affairs Vol. 2, No. 2 (May 1998)

14 Ibid, p. 3

15 Pant V Harsh, India-Israel a Partnership: Convergence and Constraints, Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol 8, No.4, December 2004, p.4

16 Ahlstrom Christopher, Arrows for India: Technology Transfers for Ballistic Missile Defense and the Missile Technology Control regime, Journal of Conflict & Security Law (2004), Vol 9, No.1, 103-125, p.2

17 Ibid, p.2

18 Khan Rabb Shamsur, Indo-Israel Defence cooperation: A step in the right direction, 23 December 2007,


19 Pant V Harsh, India-Israel Partnership: Convergence and Divergence, http://www.bharatrakshak.


20 Ibid, http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/SRR/Volume14/harsh.html

21 Ibid, http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/SRR/Volume14/harsh.html

22 Ibid, p. 2

23 Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

24 Ibid, p.2

25 Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

26 Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

27 Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

28 Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

29 Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

30 Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

31 Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

32 Withington Thomas, Israel and India partner up Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 18-19,DOi:


33 Ibid

34 Bedi Rahul, India readies large-scale UAV procurement programme, 15 October 2008,


35 Koshy Ninan, India-Israel Defence nexus deepens, http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article1350.html

36 Ibida, http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article1350.html

37 Koshy Ninan, India-Israel Defence nexus deepens, http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article1350.html

38  Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

39 Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

40  Khan Rabb Shamsur, http://www.ipcs.org/article_details.php?articleNo=2447

41 Sherman Martin, Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation as a US national interest, Ariel Center for Policy Research,Policy paper No.89

42 Sherman Martin, Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation as a US national interest, Ariel Center for Policy Research,Policy paper No.89

43 Sherman Martin, Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation as a US national interest, Ariel Center for Policy Research,Policy paper No.89

44 Sherman Martin, Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation as a US national interest, Ariel Center for Policy Research,Policy paper No.89

45 Sherman Martin, Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation as a US national interest, Ariel Center for Policy Research,Policy paper No.89

46 Sherman Martin, Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation as a US national interest, Ariel Center for Policy Research,Policy paper No.89

47 Sherman Martin, Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation as a US national interest, Ariel Center for Policy Research, Policy paper No.89

48 Sherman Martin, Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation as a US national interest, Ariel Center for Policy Research,Policy paper No.89

49 Sengupta Ramananda, India’s Israeli-Arab tight rope walk, 29 August 2010

50 Ibid,DOi: 10.2968/057001007



The Cultural & Educational Relations between India & Israel


                                                                                                                                                                         Dr.Navras Jaat Aafreedi

Assistant Professor(CS)- International Relations, Department of Social Sciences, Gautam Buddha University, Greater NOIDA,India

Ph.D. in Medieval & Modern Indian History (University of Lucknow); and Post-Doctorate in the History of the Jewish People (Tel Aviv University)

Teaching Areas :  Modern Indian History, Indo-Israeli Relations, Indo-Jewish Relations, Indo-Judaic Studies, Jewish-Muslim Relations, Anti-Semitism 

Research :  Traditions of Israelite Descent Among Certain Muslim Groups in South Asia The Indian Jewry and the Self-Professed ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’ in India 

Consulting Interests :  Jewish/Judaic Studies, Asian Studies, South Asian Studies, Indian Studies, Indo-Judaica/Indo-Judaic Studies, Medieval & Modern Indian History, Non-Jewish Claimants of Israelite Descent in South Asia, Roma/Romanis, Religious Minorities in South Asia, Muslim Anti-Semitism, Muslim Zionism, Judaizing Movements in India, Jewish-Muslim Relations, People to People Interaction between Indians and Israelis, Israeli Tourism in India, Chabad in India, Anti-Americanism, Comparative Study of Judaism and Indic Religions 

E-Mail :  navras@gbu.ac.in,aafreedi@gmail.com 


India’s Popularity in Israel

      Almost one per cent of Israel’s Jewish population (around sixty thousand) visits India every year as tourists1 such is India’s popularity as a tourist destination among the Israelis. It has become a kind of rite of passage for Israelis to spend at least six months in India after the completion of their conscription tenure. This phenomenon of Israeli tourism to India brings great benefits to the rural folk of the places they visit. “From November until Passover,” as Cohen points out, “Israelis flood cities like Manali and Kodaikanal by the thousands. As a result, entire communities have been rearranged to attract Israeli business. ‘Three hundred rupees a night per room is my average rate for Israelis,’ says Samuel of the Vadakanal village in Kodaikanal. ‘If I put three Israelis in one room, that’s 900 rupees a day. I have four rooms which earn me a total of around three lacks (300,000 Rupees a month).’”2 An Israeli organisation, Lev Olam (Heart of the World) ropes in Israeli backpackers as volunteers for a ten-day-programme aimed at providing training, transportation, shelter and food to poor Indians in the major attractions for Israeli backpackers such as Hampi, Pushkar, Rishikesh and Dharmasala. Lev Olam collaborates with local NGOs “to better target their projects where need is the greatest and to insure the long term feasibility of their efforts”.3It is hard to say if there is any country where love for Indian culture is as visible and omnipresent as in Israel. Israel is dotted with restaurants that serve Indian food. It is a common sight to see Israeli women sporting a bindi on their forehead and Indian dupattas for scarves just as it is common to hear Bollywood numbers as mobile ringtones.  Every major Israeli university offers courses in Hindi, which has emerged as one of the most popular foreign languages among the Israeli youth. Hindi Day is celebrated at Israeli universities with great fanfare. “Indian Studies, particularly as taught by the illustrious Prof. David Shulman at the Hebrew University, hit an all time high as backpackers emerged in a later reincarnation as students and philosophers of Hinduism,” writes Weil.4 The Israelis of the Bene Israel Indian Jewish community hosted the fourth world conference of the Marathi language in Jerusalem in 1996.5 They also published a quarterly literary journal, Maiboli (mother tongue), in the Marathi language in the mid 1990s. The world’s only Hebrew qav’vāl is an Israeli singer and musician, Shye Ben-Tzur, who has settled with an Indian wife in Jaipur and has released two albums of his fusion Sufi spiritual music. Israeli Indophiles have gone to the extent of developing a new type of “New Age” religion, incorporating elements of Hinduism as practiced in the ashrams of India, “which combines meditation with Jewish practice”.6 A 2008 Oxford University Press publication, David Shulman and Shalva Weil edited Karmic Passages: Israeli Scholarship on India confirms that Indian Studies in Israel “have found a solid academic presence” at her major universities.7And all this is in spite of the fact that the two countries did not have any diplomatic ties for four decades following the birth of the modern Jewish State of Israel in 1948.

Indian Academia’s Apathy towards Israel and Jews

      In sharp contrast to this Israeli love affair with India is India’s attitude towards Israel, where Jewish & Israel Studies are non-existent in the academia, resulting in a hysterical ignorance about Jews and Israel. There is no paucity of such Indians who think of Israel as a Muslim country and mistake Jews for Muslims or Christians or Zoroastrians. Of all the encounters I have had with the Indians ignorant of Jews, the one that stands out is of a professor who headed the department of sociology at a university and was yet so unaware as to ask me if the Jews were a sect of Christians. When documentaries on Jews are dubbed in Hindi, those involved often fail to use Yahūdi, the Hindi term for Jews, and continue to use the English word out of their ignorance. The only chair of Hebrew Studies which the Government of Israel has been allowed to establish in India, the one at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, has been reserved for the visually challenged. Even at the universities that give courses in modern European history, no question is ever asked about the Holocaust in the examination. When I asked the Head of the Department of Western History at the University of Lucknow, Dr. Nina David, about it, she responded by saying: “Since this is a topic which is part of the European history syllabus at the undergraduate level, we definitely discuss the Nazi persecution of the Jews, popularly known as the Holocaust, which has also been denied by many people. But the fact is that Hitler did persecute the Jews. I do discuss it at length, but we don’t generally ask questions specifically on the Holocaust in the examination. It is just a part of Hitler and the Nazis, about whom I teach in the class. It is just a small segment of it. I don’t sort of magnify the Holocaust while I discuss the Nazis. I cannot spend so much time on only one aspect of the Nazis... I have never thought of setting a question on it and neither have any examiners set a question on this.”8 Until 2002, the Holocaust did not find any mention in the standard history textbook in Gujarat, which discussed in detail the terms of the treaty of Versailles. In response to complaints from the Government of Israel, the textbook was revised to only vaguely mention that many Jews were killed during the war, without mentioning the Holocaust.9 When the present author organised a Holocaust films retrospective at two universities in Lucknow in 2009,10 it was misrepresented by a number of newspapers as a retrospective of films focussing on the Second World War. Resistance to Jewish and Israel Studies and even to the study of Indo-Israeli Relations is, in fact, so strong in Indian academia, that Professor P. R. Kumaraswamy has been wary of discussing his book India’s Israel Policy, 2010, in India, as reflected in his Facebook status posted on 21st September 2010.

The Growing Popularity of Hitler in India

      Perhaps ignorance of Jews and Judaism, as well as ignorance of the Holocaust in academia explain the growing popularity of Hitler among the youth. Jaico, the largest publisher and distributor of Mein Kampf in India, has sold more than one hundred thousand copies in the last decade. There has been a steady rise of ten to fifteen per cent in the book’s sale (2000 – 2009). Some young people say they are attracted by Hitler’s “discipline and patriotism” and that his leadership skills were more important than his genocidal ways if they happen to be aware of the Holocaust.11 In 2006, a Nazi themed restaurant Hitler’s Cross in a satellite town of Mumbai called Navi Mumbai had to change its name within a week of its opening to Cross Café when there was an international outcry against the name.12 Recently a Bollywood film project on Hitler’s last days, titled Dear Friend Hitler!, got into trouble when the actor playing Hitler withdrew from the project in the face of an outcry from Indian moviegoers and historians, as it was seen as an attempt to project Hitler in a positive light. The director, Rakesh Ranjan, said that his film “shows Hitler’s love for India and how he indirectly contributed to Indian independence.”13 It is worth recalling that the Congress President from 1937 to 1939, Subhash Chandra Bose had pro-Nazi leanings, who wanted to overthrow the British rule with Nazi support.14

Indian Jewry: Strong Bridge between India and Israel

      The Indian Jews are a strong bridge between India and Israel. While seventy thousand of them are in Israel, five thousand continue to live in India. Despite their long presence of more than two millennia, the Jews of India have ended up being marginalized as much on account of their small numbers as due to the state policies. They had received preferential treatment from the colonial British government as per their policy of creating loyalists of small religious minorities in India. The fact that India’s independence brought it to an end is significantly responsible for their economic marginalization.  Given their miniscule population in India, it is only natural for them not to find any representation in Indian cinema, the largest producer of films in the world, even though they played a crucial role in its initial phase as Jewish women acted in films at a time when it was a taboo for women from respectable families to do so. They thus bravely paved the way for women from other communities. However, perhaps the only Indian film to have an Indian Jewish character, Mr & Mrs Iyer (2002), only strengthened an already existing stereotype of Jews among Indians by its negative portrayal, as Indian Jewish writer Robin David wrote on his blog:

    I was majorly offended by a scene in Aparna Sen’s Mr & Mrs Iyer. There is this part where rioters enter a bus scouting for Muslims to kill and randomly pull down pants of passengers to check if they are circumcised. One man gives away the identity of an old Muslim couple because he was Jewish, circumcised and there was no way in hell that he would have been able to explain to the rioters that he was not Muslim. This was his way of distracting them from him. If I was in his place, I don’t think I would have given away the identity of the old couple. ...I had been put in the same situation in 2002.15

      Surprisingly the film was screened at several film festivals in Israel and its director, Aparna Sen was the Guest of Honour at the third International Women’s Film Festival in Rehovot, near Tel Aviv, in 2006.

Efforts for the Promotion of Indo-Israeli Friendship

      However, there are several examples of Indo-Israeli amity. India and Israel have an educational exchange programme under which both countries award scholarships to each other’s students. There is an Israel-India Cultural Association. Vadodara, Gujarat based organisation Friends of Israel is instrumental in organising events with Israeli themes. A refereed journal, Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies, is published from the USA and Canada, with attention to Indo-Israeli relations. The life time conductor of Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra is an Indian, Zubin Mehta. An Indian, Cochin based Thoufeek Zakriya is a prominent Hebrew calligrapher. A few years back a delegation of vice chancellors of certain Indian universities visited Israel. There are also a number of Indo-Israeli friendship groups on social networking sites, viz., India-Israel Friendship Club with one hundred and thirty-five members and Friends of Israel with thirty-four members on Orkut, and Indo-Judaica with one hundred and fifty-two members, Indo-Israel Friendship Club with thirty-one members, Indo-Jew Alliance with thirty-nine members, Jewish Studies in India with four hundred and seventy-two members, Holocaust Education in South Asia with three hundred and thirty-four members, The Ten Lost Tribes Challenge with four hundred and ninety-eight members on Facebook.16

      All the above mentioned efforts would be in vain unless and until India gets over its fear of offending her Muslim minority, which is the reason for the absence of Jewish Studies in India and which is what has kept Indo-Israeli cultural relations from developing to their full potential.


      Endnotes :

Markovich, Dalya and Ktzia Alon, “ The Sterilized Otherness: India in Israel, Israel in India”, Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies, Vol. X, 2009, p.61, n. 2

2Cohen, Dr. Adam, “In Search of Ecstasy: Israelis and Drug Abuse in India”, Asian Jewish Life, Autumn 2010, p. 37


3 Daniels, Jana, “Backpacking to Enlightenment: Lev Olam in India”, Asian Jewish Life, August 2010, pp. 9-11

4 Weil, Shalva, “The Influence of Indo-Judaic Studies in Israel, or The Salience of Spirituality”, The Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies, Vols. 7-8, Winter 2004-2005, p. 7

5Roland, Joan G., The Jewish Communities of India: Identity in a Colonial Era, Second Edition, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick (USA) and London (UK), 1998, p. 297, n. 38

6Weil, op. cit., p. 8

7Elizabeth Chalier-Visuvalingam’s review of Karmic Passages: Israeli Scholarship on India in Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies, Vol. X, Summer 2009, p. 113

8 Interviewed by the author on 1st January, 2011, in her office at the University of Lucknow, Lucknow.

9Robin David, “Fear your friend Hitler”, On the Bounce, 16 June 2010: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/On-the-bounce/entry/fear-your-friend-hitler [Accessed on 5 September 2010]

10 Visit:

11 Zubair Ahmed, “Hitler memorabilia ‘attracts young Indians’”, BBC News, Mumbai, 15 June 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8660064.stm [Accessed on 5 September 2010]


12 Vijay Singh, “Eatery named after Hitler”, The Times of India, 22 August 2006: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Eatery-named-after-Hitler/articleshow/1913952.cms [Accessed on 5 September 2010], Vijay Singh, “Global ire against Hitler café”, The Times of India, Mumbai, 23 August 2006:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Global-ire-against-Hitler-cafe/articleshow/1917489.cms [Accessed on 5 September 2010] and “Mumbai’s ‘Hitler’s Cross’ restaurant to change name after uproar”, Haaretz, 24 August 2006: http://www.haaretz.com/news/mumbai-s-hitler-s-cross-restaurant-to-change-name-after-uproar-1.195789 [Accessed on 5 September 2010]

13 Dibyojyoti Baksi, “Dear Friend Hitler not based on Hitler’s love life”, Hindustan Times, 8 June 2010: http://www.hindustantimes.com/Dear-Friend-Hitler-not-based-on-Hitler-s-love-life/Article1-554773.aspx

[Accessed on 5 September 2010], Haaretz Service, “Dear Friend Hitler”, Haaretz, 12 June 2010: http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/dear-friend-hitler-1.295744 [Accessed on 5 September 2010] and Robin David, “Fear your friend Hitler”, On the Bounce, 16 June 2010: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/On-the-bounce/entry/fear-your-friend-hitler [Accessed on 5 September 2010]

14 Kumaraswamy, P. R., “India and the Holocaust: Perceptions of the Indian National Congress”, Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies, Vol. 3, April 2000, p. 126

15 Robin David, “The Reading”, posted on his blog City of Fear on 23 April 2007: http://cityoffearblog.blogspot.com/2007/04/reading.html [Accessed on 5 September 2010]. Robin David is the author of the only Indian Jewish account of the anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002,  City of Fear, Penguin, India, 2007

16 All membership figures are of 10th January, 2010, when checked at 8 p.m.



India’s Collaboration with Israel

A policy of Opportunism

                                                                                                    Dr K M Sajad Ibrahim

                                                                                                                               University of  Kerala                                     


      Dr.K.M.Sajad Ibrahim is Assistant Professor in Political Science. He joined as the faculty member in the University in 2005. He also served as a Lecturer in the Sree Sanakarachariya University of Sanaskrit, Kalady, Kerala, Research Associate in the Department of Politics and Public Administration in the University of Madras, Chennai and Higher Secondary Teacher under the Government Aided Service.

He received PhD from the University of Kerala in 1995. His important areas of research include: West Asian Politics, Issues of Muslims and Minorities in India, Terrorism in India and the World, Environment issues, Human rights etc. He has more than twelve years of teaching/research experience. Some of his academic achievements are:

•  Awarded Major Research Project by the UGC (Rs.7.2 Lakh) in April 2009 for the topic: Impact  of Fundamentalism on Muslim Youth in Kerala: Role of Islamic Organisations

• Selection to the international programme(as a sole representative from India)- the Study of the United States Institute Programme of the US State Department, conducted by the Donahue Institute, University of Massachusetts, USA, from 20 June – 31 July 2008

• Conferred Honorary Citizenship by the Mayor of City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA in recognition of the friendship, cooperation and dedication to exemplary civic service in July 2008

• First Rank in M.A. Political Science •UGC-NET in Political Science

• Dr.Ramaswamy Mudaliar Gold Medal of University of Kerala in 1990

• Prof. K.V. Nandan Menon Prize from University of Kerala 1990

• Ph.D.Fellowship from Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi (1992-1994)

•Contact Email: sajad67@gmail.com •Personal Blog:  http://www.sajadresearchdomain.blogspot.com/


One of the notable foreign policy reversals of India since 1990 was its relation with Israel. It was generally viewed as an outcome of the post-cold war scenario. With the demise of the Soviet Union, India was in need of a strong military supplier. The case of Israel was very much appreciated by the Indian policy makers by taking into account of multiple factors other than a strong arms supplier. Israel was viewed as a potential power to counter the threat posed by Pakistan. Another important dimension in this respect was to learn many lessons from Israel how to combat Islamic terrorism as Israel has been fighting with the Palestinian militants since late 1940s.  As a result of the diplomatic relations, India showed keen interest in developing high level military and commercial links with Israel, especially during the period of BJP led government of 1998-2004. Israel is now the largest supplier of arms to India surpassing Russia recently. It provides India with missile radar, border monitoring equipment and other similar high-tech military hardwires.  In addition, several thousand Indian soldiers have been provided with “anti-insurgency training in Israel”. It was an irony that for more than four than four decades India condemned the Israeli aggressive policy against the Palestinians by providing unstinting support to the latter. Since 1992 India not only changed its policy, but also going into the extent of subsidizing the cost of Israeli war efforts against the Palestinian national liberation movement. The geopolitical implications of the collaboration between India and Israel are grave and manifold. India’s close collaboration with Israel is fundamentally to woo the United States as well as to build a new strategic relation vis-à-vis Pakistan and China.

Historical Antecedents of India’s Attitude towards Palestine Question

India’s relation with the West Asia was formulated by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1930s. Although Nehru took an impartial view regarding the Arab-Israeli differences in the initial period, he later took the stand of supporting the Arabs by taking into account of the denial of justice to the Palestinians. In the 1939 Resolution adopted by the Indian National Congress, it stated that “in Palestine the Jews have relied on British armed forces to advance their special privileges”. 1 Even Gandhiji was not ready to recognize the Jewish nationalism, which was artificially created in Palestine at the cost of indigenous Arab population.2  Nehru indicted Zionism for fostering Jewish settlement in Palestine at the expense of the Arab population. Jayapraksh Narayan stated:                                                                         

 “No doubt the Jews were entitled as a persecuted people to compassion and some compensation for the wrongs heaped upon their innocent heads through the centuries. But it was certainly not the Arabs, least of all the Palestinians, who were the persecutors. If the Christian peoples and powers of the West, some of whom had tried mercilessly to exterminate the Jews, were anxious at least to salve their conscience and do a good turn to their victims, they had no right to do it at the cost of the Arabs”  3

Nehru in his letters to his daughter, Indira, during his prison days commented the British tactics in Palestine in favour of the Jewish immigrants violating the rights of the Palestine as another face of a colonial power. He saw the English in Palestine pitting “Jewish religious nationalism against Arab nationalism, and (making) it appear that (their) presence is necessary to act as an arbiter and to keep the peace between the two”.4 All these were some of the basic perspectives of Indian leaders regarding the Jewish colonialism in the pre-independence period.

The first task before India in its post independence period was to examine an appropriate solution to the Palestine question by becoming a member in the Special UN Committee. India supported the minority plan which recommended a federation of two Arab and Jewish states by opposing the partition plan of Palestine. (During this period the third world countries were not emerged as members of the UN General Assembly).5 The decision of India was influenced by the perception of Indian leaders on the Palestine question as well as the partition of India.

When Israel became a reality in 1948, India had several reservations in granting recognition to it. Nehru openly stated the reason as a gesture of supporting the stand of Arab countries.6 Moreover, India opposed U.N. membership for Israel in 1949. By 1950 a series of efforts had been made to influence the Indian government to recognize the state of Israel by the Jewish lobby as well as its counterpart in India. Finally, India accorded its recognition to the State of Israel in late 1950 without establishing any formal ties until 1992. 7

India’s Policy towards the Arabs and the Palestinian Movements

India condemned the Israeli attack on Egypt in October 1956 as a re-imposition of European colonialism in the Afro Asian world. India cosponsored resolutions in the General Assembly urging the withdrawal of French, British and Israeli forces from Egypt. The attack was a reaction against Egypt’s decision to nationalize Suez Canal. In fact, the Suez crisis drew Egypt and India closer together and its relation with Israel to low point and ended all possibility for a bilateral tie. 8

India’s hostility towards Israel increased even more after the death of Nehru in 1964. It was evident from India’s refusal to accept Israeli assistance in redeveloping the barren wastes of Rajasthan. Similarly, Israeli offer of famine relief given in response to a plea by the UN Secretary General, U Thant was declined by India for political reasons. 9 India condemned the Israeli invasion of Arab lands of Palestine in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In December 1967, D.P.Dhar, a member of Indian delegation to the UN Special Committee, reiterated Indian position, which recognized the Palestinian as a people and not merely as refugees. It also emphasized the need of for a lasting solutions to ensure the just rights of the Arab people of Palestine on the basis of UN resolution 194 (III).  10

In the meantime, the Indian political atmosphere was not fully supporting the views of the government stand. The opposition parties in India, except the Communist parties, demanded a cautious approach in the 1967 war, promoting a neutral stand. The parties like Swathanthra party and Jana Sangh openly supported Israel. It happened on account of the neutral policy of Egypt during the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and Indo-Pak war of 1965.11 Similarly, the Indian press also took a negative approach to official Indian position in the 1967 war. The news papers like Times of India, Indian Express, Statesman and Hindustan Times made critical remarks on Indian policy of supporting the Arabs. 12

The first setback to India’s relation with West Asia came in 1969 when India was denied participation on the Rabat conference of Islamic leaders due to the opposition of Pakistan. The meeting was convened to condemn the burning of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Moreover, under the initiative of Pakistan the meeting also condemned the communal riots in Ahmadabad. As a reaction to these developments, India recalled its Senior Envoys from Morocco and Jordan. Further, Indian Foreign Affairs Minister, Dinesh Singh held a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Abba Eban in New York, as a first sign of improving relations with Israel.13  During the Indo-Pak war in November 1971, countries like Egypt and Syria took a neutral stand while countries like Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia condemned India. However, Israel took a pro-India stand by criticizing Pakistan actions in East Bengal. 14

However, India continued pro-Arab stand even in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. At the same time India gradually moved away from the policy of supporting individual Arab countries by focusing exclusively on Palestine question. 15  Hence in the post-1973 war period India gave more importance to support the struggles of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Yasser Arafat. In this respect, India played considerable role in the UN to support the PLO’s bid for observer status in 1974. India became the first non-Arab government to extend formal diplomatic accreditation to the representatives of the PLO in January 1975. Moreover, India was a cosponsor of General Assembly Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism in November 1975.16

When Janata party came to power in 1977, there were speculations about the shift of India’s policy towards Palestine. It was during this period Moshe Dayan, Israeli Foreign Minister made an unofficial visit to India.17  However, there was no official action in supporting the relationship with Israel. When Camp David Accord was signed in September 1978 between Israel and Egypt, India opposed it along with the Arab world. In 1980 Indira Gandhi returned to power with the continued support of Palestinian struggle. It was during this period India accorded full diplomatic recognition to the Office of PLO in New Delhi. Moreover, Yasser Arafat paid state visits to India in 1980 and 1982.18 This line of Indian policy continued until early 1990s. The situation in West Asian witnessed a sea change when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. It was during this period the Soviet Union was disappearing from the world map marking the era of unipolar world. In the meantime, the P.L.O. lost its prestige in West Asia on account of its support to Saddam Hussain. The United States took the initiative of holding international Middle East Peace Conference immediately after expelling Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991.  This marked new era in West Asia due to different varieties of diplomatic manoeuvring. As a consequence to these developments, India also made drastic changes in its policy towards West Asia.

Transformation of India’s foreign policy: Indo-Israeli Friendship since 1990s

It was during the period of P.V. Narasaimha Rao’s Congress government India made radical changes in its foreign policy. The most notable one was the decision of establishing formal ties with Israel in January 1992. The decision was a surprising one, although it looked like a long awaited decision, as remarked by Indian media. In fact, the decision of India to start formal relation with Israel was based on changes in the international scenario. It was the beginning of post-cold war period war era with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, India’s strong ally for a long period.  In the new situation India desired the support and collaboration with major international powers like the United States, especially in the wake of the political turmoil in Kashmir. In this respect India had two objectives in promoting its relation with the US. Firstly, to overcome the propaganda unleashed by Pakistan on Kashmir situation. Secondly, India required strategic cooperation with the US due to the demise of the Soviet Union, the leading exporter of arms to India. It was imperative for India to modernise Indian weaponry. At the same time India was fully aware of the complexities in establishing strong ties with the US. In this context India found Israel as a best option of appeasing the US line of policy. It is to be noted that India announced its decision to formally establish relations with Israel on the eve of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s visit to the US.19

Moreover, the P.L.O. had already recognised the state of Israel to join as a party of the peace process in the Middle East. So India found a favourable occasion in justifying its ties with Israel. It was also remarked that India’s normal relation with Israel was helpful to get the status of a mediator in the on going peace negotiations. India’s relationship with Israel also marked the shift of India’s foreign policy from the traditional line of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist to economic and strategic developments. In the decade following this normalisation of ties, successive governments of both the centrist Congress and the rightist BJP, irrespective of party ideology, have rapidly forged extensive military, economic and political relationship. In fact, the shift within the Indian ruling classes from the official position of non-alignment and state-centred economic development towards a pro-United States policy facilitated and encouraged this change attitude towards Israel.

Major Developments in the Indo-Israeli Relations

The most important outcome in the Indo-Israel relationship was that in 2008 Israel surpassed Russia as the main defence supplier to India after breaking the $ I billion mark in new contracts signed annually over the past years. 20 Israel is not, as Minister Antony claims, just one among 45 countries with which India has defence deals. A Jerusalem Post article on February 15, 2009 had a screaming headline: “Israel now India’s top defence supplier”. 21 Although India’s relation with Israel started at a low profile, a sea change took place after the NDA came to power in 1998. India soon became Israel’s closest ally in Asia with strategic, defence and intelligence cooperation growing rapidly. India became the biggest market for Israeli arms. Israel supplied not only military hard wares but also several high-techs, critical weaponry such as wide array of surveillance items, electronic warfare systems, a ground based Green Pine ABM radar, and phalcon airborne warning and control systems. These arms sales were part of a declared NDA policy to forge an alliance among India, United States and Israel.  22

The United States has given clearance to Israel’s delivery of phalcon reconnaissance aircraft to India, in marked contrast to Washington’s vigorous opposition to supplying them to China in 1998. The US forced Israel to cancel the deal to sell the phalcons to China out of concern altering the balance of power between China and Taiwan. In February 2003 an agreement was made to supply advanced Israeli avionic systems for the Indian Air Force’s new MIG-27 combat aircraft. There were reports about the collaboration between India and Israel on a missile defence system based on the Israel Arrow technology. 23

India-Israeli partnership has intensified since 1998 and later led to the visiting of India’s Home Minister, L.K.Advani and India’s External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh to Israel in quick succession in mid 2000. The delegates of the Indian team with L.K.Advani consisted of Heads of India’s intelligence agencies, RAW, IB, and Central Police Organisations fighting terrorism. In addition to this, India’s National Security Advisor, Brijesh Mishra and Services Chiefs have paid their visit to Israel since 1998, underlining the growing strategic cooperation between India and Israel. The top officials of Indian Navy also conducted goodwill visits to Israel. 24

The Israeli aid during the Kargil war in 1999 was considered by India as a cementing factor in the Indo-Israeli relationship. It was during the visit of Shimon Pares to India in January 2002 India and Israel made major agreements to fight ‘terrorism’. Ironically, the word ‘terrorism’  used by Israel was about the national liberation struggle of the Palestinians, which had been strongly supported by India until late 1980s. An Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesman said during the visit of Pares: “India finds it increasingly beneficial to learn from Israel’s experience in dealing with terrorism”. 25 This line of Indian policy was in contradiction with the fundamental principle of Indian foreign policy, supporting all national liberation movements.

The most significant event in the Indo-Israeli relationship was the visit of Israeli Prime Minster, Ariel Sharon to India in September 2003. In fact, the visit engineered much controversy in the wake of the assassination of Palestinian leaders by Israeli military forces during the period. There were series of protests in different parts of India against the Israeli Prime Minister. However, the Indian government adopted a cautious step of either displeasing Sharon or giving much honour against the public sentiments.26 At the same time, there were many agreements during his visit as Sharon was accompanied by a large delegation of about 30 influential businessmen, eager to forge new contracts and open new markets in India. 27

When the UPA government under the Congress leadership came to power in mid-2004, it decided to follow the same line of the policy adopted by the earlier NDA regime. During the NDA rule the Congress party had criticised some of the close cooperation between India and Israel. But UPA government followed its relations with Israel without changing any policies. India’s Navel Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta visited Israel in January 2008 to finalise several key defence projects. It was reported that Mehta had reviewed efforts to enhance the Israeli-origin Barak missiles defence system.28 On January 21, 2008 an Indian space launch vehicle lifted off from the Sriharikota spaceport on the Indian Ocean to put into space Israel’s most sophisticated spy satellite ever launched, the Polaris. The commercial launch of Polaris by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) underscored the growing military and intelligence connections between Israel and India. The United States helped inspire this relationship and has a strong interest in its success. Though unique in the military cooperation realm, this is but one of several evolving relationships between Israel and great or emerging powers that deserves attention. 29

The launching of an Israeli made satellite on April 20, 2009 came close on the heels of an opaque missile deal of India with an Israeli company under investigation both in India and Israel, raising further questions about India’s Israeli ties and its implications. A.K. Antony, India’s Defence Minister, found it hard to answer questions related to these deals while campaigning for the Congress party in the Parliament elections in his home State of Kerala. India signed a massive US $ 1.4 billion deal with the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the supply and joint development of medium-range surface-to-air missiles (MRSAM). The deal signed on February 27, 2009, just two days prior to the notification of elections to Parliament, was wrapped in secrecy till the Israeli Aerospace Industries officially announced it. The company explained that “early disclosure was liable to cause material difficulties in execution of the contract and even result in its cancellation”, according to the Israeli business daily Globes. The company has claimed that the Indian Government wanted the signing of the contract to be kept secret.30 Despite these allegations of kickbacks the Indian Naval Chief, Admiral Nirmal Verma, visited Israel in October 2010 to intensify the arms trade with the Israeli companies. For instance, the Rs 2,606-crore project between DRDO and Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) to develop a supersonic 70-km range Barak-NG (next generation) missile defence system or LR-SAM (long-range surface-to-air missile) system for the Navy is scheduled for completion by May 2011.31

Implications in the Indo-Israeli Relationship

The most important outcome in the Indo-Israeli relation is the aberration in the

fundamental principle of Indian foreign policy. In the first four decades after independence, successive governments sought to project India as country dedicated to decolonisation. This posture offered the basis for the principled foreign policy of Nehruvian state which drew its own legitimacy from the tumultuous anti-colonial struggle that brought about independence for the subcontinent in the late 1940s. But when India decided to establish its ties with Israel, it had far reaching implications including military and intelligence cooperation against Pakistan and Islamic terrorism. In fact, India’s relation with Israel was not a normal one as it expanded into different vital fields, even foiled India’s traditional relations with Arab countries and Iran. It was viewed as a tactic used by the US to bring India into its strategic orbit. As a result, it lost its independent foreign policy initiatives in the post-cold war period.

The traders and business lobby in India and Israel played a crucial role in fostering the ties between the two countries for promoting their interests. The Indian business lobby was not interested any matters regarding the case of Palestinians. Since Palestine has little to offer financially or technologically, while Israel can sell to India what the US refuses to India, these pragmatists insisted that New Delhi had no option but to court the more “valuable” Israel.32 The official Israeli figures show that Israel exports to India valued $1.270 billion in 2006 and imports $1.433 billion to Israel. Agricultural, water and IT technologies in addition to fertilisers and diamonds are major mutual trade concerns. The State Bank of India became the first foreign bank to open a branch in Israel’s diamond exchange. 33

The India-Israeli alliance strengthens the US strategic designs for India and the region. India holds significant place in the September 20, 2002 National Security Strategy of the US, a policy document to support the actions of the current US President, George Bush.34 Like Israel in West Asia, the US needed a close ally in South Asia to confront terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as to overcome the challenges posed by China. The Indo-US nuclear deal is the most significant outcome of this kind of policy initiatives of the United States.

“Pakistan factor” was another aspect which cemented the relation between India and Israel. For India, the growing nuclear arsenal of Pakistan and its support to terrorism in Kashmir and different parts of India were most important challenges. In the case of Israel, the nuclear capability of Pakistan and its support to Palestinian extremists posed a threat to its security. In this context Pakistan was a common threat to India and Israel and any alliance in this direction was considered as most valuable. There were reports about the Israeli clandestine support to Indian nuclear explosion, Pokhran II in May 1998.35 Even the Sangh Parivar was demanding for an alliance with Israel way back in 1960s and 1970s to face the “Islamic threat” from Pakistan and Kashmir.

India’s relationship with the West Asian countries, most specifically Iran, has been a point of contention in the Indo-Israeli partnership. Israel’s relationship with Iran is extremely antagonistic and unstable. Israel viewed Iran as the most important threat to its security in the region due to the kind of support it extended to Hezbollah and Palestinian extremists. In the case of India, Iran is considered as the most important ally in the region. India paid a lot of respect to Iran on account of its support to Kashmir issue against Pakistan. So India treated Iran as an ideal power in the region to counter Pakistan influence in West Asia. But with the inception of Indo-Israeli ties India’s traditional relationship with Iran badly damaged.36 Israel’s spy satellite, Tecsar (Polaris), was launched by India in January 2008 to enhance Israel’s intelligence gathering capability. In fact, the real objective behind the launching of the satellite was to undermine the Iranian nuclear programme. Moreover, India voted twice on the IAEA governing body against Iran under the compulsion from the United States. All these created rifts between India and Iran.37

However, it is not possible to follow a negative policy towards the Arab countries by taking into account of many realities. It is estimated that more than five million Indian expatriate work in the Arab countries. Moreover, nearly $25 billion worth of Indo-Arab trade, including 60 per cent of Indian oil and gas imports worth $20 billion, is the basic support of Indian economy.38  In this respect, India had to follow a soft policy towards the question of Palestine. In order to overcome this dilemma an attempt had been made by Indian foreign policy makers to separate its Israeli policy from the Arab-Israeli conflict. To realise this objective, India has taken a more tactical neutral position on the Palestine question, publicly stating its continued support for the Palestinian case and making deliberative effort to further strengthen ties with ties Arab neighbours.39

India considers Israel as a role model of counter terrorist strategies. However, even after 60 years of military actions against the Palestinians, Israel still lives in an atmosphere of fear. Israel’s counterterrorism strategy has been a complete failure which the Israeli government has been trying to hide by brutally using its fire power against innocent Palestinians. Two years ago, Israel marched into Lebanon thinking they would destroy the Hezbollah but ended up retreating in disgrace. It is not in India’s interest to emulate Israel counterterrorism strategy as this would pose a serious threat to the stability of the entire South Asian region. Instead of accusing and threatening Pakistan, India should investigate the local support which enabled the attackers to carry out this gruesome act of terrorism. Both India and Pakistan are nuclear states and should understand the repercussions and consequences of war.40


India’s new foreign policy since 1990s was a severe setback to Palestinians. The Palestinians have been waging a struggle for their nationhood for the last six decades against Israeli illegal occupation of lands. India was one of the leading countries which extended all support to the Palestinian cause. India had a strong critical approach to Israel’s illegal occupation of West Bank and Gaza. However, India’s changed policy since 1992 is a blatant contradiction to its avowed policy of supporting the Palestinian cause due to the transformation in the international politics resulted in the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Moreover, India had enough justifications in establishing ties with Israel by taking into account of the factors like the recognition of Israel by the P.L.O. and some Arab countries. However, the current phase of India’s relation with Israel goes beyond the level of normalcy and reached a stage of much clandestine cooperation for defence and strategic purposes. Ironically, India wants to borrow the ideas of Israeli tactics of eliminating the Palestinian leaders in its efforts to combat terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. For a long period India had been condemning these Israeli policies against the Palestinians. Now the cooperation in the same field with Israel is against its foreign policy principle and the support to the Palestinian struggle.

Moreover, India never used its relation with Israel to resolve the issue of Palestinians. At present India is in a commanding position of using its good offices to influence Israel. However, no attempt was made to pressurise Israel to withdraw its forces from the occupied territories. It is very unfortunate that on many occasions since 1992 India was not ready to condemn Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians by sticking to a passive stand of supporting a ‘peaceful solution’ to the crisis.  The new diplomatic initiatives of India target only its vested interest against the traditional principle of solidarity with the third world countries. The current trends indicate India’s keen interest to develop close ties with imperialist global powers like the United States for economic and defence benefits undermining its values and principles. In other words, Indian foreign policy lost its direction as it is dictated by the external powers to realise their objectives.

In fact, there were widespread concerns about India’s burgeoning support to the war economy of Israel, the chief victims of which are Palestinians. The spy satellite, also made by the controversial Israeli Aerospace Industries fits into this. The defence and intelligence nexus between India and Israel has strategic implications not only for West Asia but also for South Asia especially through their collaboration in the US-led war on terror. It is very unfortunate that while continuing to pay lip service to the Palestinian cause India is subsidizing Israel’s war against Palestinians.

Endnotes :

1 N.V. Raj Kumar (Ed.) (1952), The Background of India’s Foreign Policy (New Delhi: Indian National Congress,), p.57

2 Leonard A. Gordon (1975), “Indian Nationalist Ideas about Palestine and Israel”, Jewish Social Studies, 37, Summer-Fall, , p.223.

3 Jayaprakash Narayan (1969), “The Arab-Israeli Question”, Indian and Foreign Review, Vol.6, July 15, , pp.1-2.

4 Jawaharlal Nehru (1962), Glimpses of World History (Bombay: Asia Publishing House), p.789.

5 For details see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, Second Session, Supplement No.11, Document A/364 (UNSCOP Report)

6 G.Parthasarathi (ed.) (1986), Jawaharlal Nehru, Letters to Chief Ministers 1947-1964, Vol. 2, 1950-52, “1 October 1950”, (Delhi: Oxford University Press for the Jawaharlal Nehru Trust,), p.217.

7 Subhash Kapila, India – Israel Relations: The Imperatives For Enhanced Strategic Cooperation, South Asia Analysis Group : Papers, cited at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers2/paper131.html retrieved on 12-09-2008

8 Sudha Rao (1972), The Arab-Israeli Conflict : The Indian View (Delhi: Orient Longman,), p.60

9 Arthur G. Rubinoff  (1995), “Normalisation of India-Israel Relations: Stillborn for Forty Years”, Asian Survey, Vol.35, No.5, May, p.493

10 Krishna Gopal Swamy, n.9, pp.278-279

11Farah Naaz (2005), West Asia: Changing Perspectives (Delhi: Shipra Publications,), p.95.

12 See Indian Opinion on the West Asian Crisis (Bombay: Indo-Israeli Friendship League, 1967).

13 Arthur G. Rubinoff, n.10,  p.498.

14 Ibid

15 K.R.Singh (1999), “India and West Asia: Retrospect and Prospects” in Nancy Jetly (ed.), India’s Foreign Policy: Challenges and Prospects (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House,). p.227.

16Raja Swamy, “The Case against Collaboration between Indian and Israel”, MR Zine,

30-08-06 cited in http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/swamy300806.html, retrieved on 11-09-08

17 Moshe Dayan (1978), Breakthrough: A Personal Account of the Egypt-Israeil Peace Negotiations (New Delhi: Vikas,), p.28.

18 Hindustan Times (New Delhi), March 27, 1980.

19 New York Times , January 30, 1992.

20The Hindu, February 16, 2009.


21 Ninan Koshy (2009), India-Israel Defence Nexus Deepens, Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 20, May 2.

22Ninan Koshy (2008), “India and Israel Eye Iran”, FPIF foreign Policy in Focus, February 13, , cited at  http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/4959 retrieved on 10-09-2008

23Ninan Koshy (2003), US plays matchmaker to India, Israel, Asia Times on line, June 10, cited http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/EF10Df03.html retrieved on 21-09-2008

24 Subhash Kapila, n.7.

25 Ninan Koshy, n.23.

26 Bansidhar Pradhan (2008), “Globalisation and the Shift in India’s Palestine Policy”, in Anwar Alam (Ed.), India and West Asia in the Era of Globalisation (New Delhi: New Century Publications,), pp.296-297.

27Harsh V. Pant (2004), “India-Israel Partnership: Convergence and Constraints”, The Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol8, No.4, December, cited at http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2004/issue4/jv8no4a6.html

28 Ninan Koshy, n.22.

29 Israel and India New Allies see http://www.brookings.edu/profile/Portfolio/PortfolioHelper.aspx?ProfileItemId=e187dc42-b737-46c3-b21c-3ad0c62dffd0


30 Nainan Koshy, n.20.


31The Times of India , October 12, 2010.

32 Ramtanu Maitra (2003), “Palestinians Pay for Indian Ambitions”, Asian Times on line, September 10, cited at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/EI10Df03.html, retrieved on 25-09-2008.

33 Nicola Nasser, n.21.

34 Ninan Koshy, n.23.

35S.R.Chaudhari (1999), “Indo-Israeli N-Nexus”, The Hindu, February 10,.

36 Adam C Castillo, India and Israel: A balancing alliance, International Relations and Security Network, cited at: http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?ID=19199 retrieved on 23-09-2008.

37 Ninan Koshy, n.22.


38 Nicola Nasser, n.21.

39Frederick Stakelbeck, Jr., "India and Israel Shape a New Strategic Relationship”, Global Politician , cited at http://www.globalpolitician.com/2345-israel

40 Mahwish Hafeez (2009), Indo-Israel Relations and the Mumbai Attacks, Reflections, No. 1.



                     BOOK RELEASE

Your browser may not support display of this image. THE CHINA SYNDROME :


                         By Dr. Harsh V. Pant

                                              Publisher -  HarperCollins India

About the BOOK

As the balance of power shifts from the West to the East, the relationship between the two regional giants, China and India, gains significance. Their relationship will determine to a great extent the new political architecture that takes shape in Asia and the world at large. Nor are the two powers unaware of this. As a Chinese premier meeting the Indian prime minister is reported to have said, ‘When we shake hands, the whole world will be watching.’

The China Syndrome seeks to decipher the complex, multi-layered relationship between the two countries, and the strategy or lack of it in India’s China policy. Given the emerging scenario, it is a subject of considerable interest.

Author : Harsh V. Pant  teaches in the Department of Defence Studies London. He is also an Associate with the King’s Centre for Science and Security and lectures at the UK Defence Academy. He is the author of Contemporary Debates in Indian Foreign and Security Policy and editor of Indian Foreign Policy in a Unipolar World . His current research is focused on Asia-Pacific security and defence issues.
ISBN: 9788172239244   Format   Hardback
Cover Price: Rs. 399.00           Extent    280 pages  
  1. Official
(1) Delhi Statement on Friendship and Cooperation between India and Israel

September 10, 2003

Joint statement issued on conclusion of visit to India by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

1. At the invitation of the Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, paid a State visit to India from September 8-10 2003, the first-ever by an Israeli Prime Minister.

2. Prime Minister Sharon was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, Yosef Lapid, Minister of Culture, Education and Sport, Limor Livnat (-together with a cultural delegation) and Minister of Agriculture, Israel Katz. The large accompanying business delegation underscored the importance the two countries attach to expanding their economic relations.

3. During the visit, Prime Minister Sharon called on President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, and held talks with Prime Minister Vajpayee. He also held separate meetings with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Lal Krishna Advani, Minister of Defence George Fernandes, Minister of Finance Jaswant Singh, Minister of External Affairs Yashwant Sinha and Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi.

4. As ancient cultures and societies, India and Israel have left their mark on human civilization and history. As democratic countries since their inception, both nations share faith in the values of freedom and democracy. Both countries gained independence during the same period and embarked on a course of nation building to advance the well being of their respective peoples and to build modern democratic states able to face difficult challenges.

5. The two Prime Ministers discussed a range of important bilateral, regional and international issues. They reiterated their commitment to further advance the bilateral relations between the two countries and increase the scope of trade and economic exchanges.

6. The shared ideals draw both peoples into a natural amity in pursuit of common goals. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, there has been rapid expansion and deepening of bilateral relations. Both sides attach great importance to strengthening their long-term cooperation in the political, defence, economic, commercial, cultural and science and technology areas.

7. In the presence of the Prime Ministers, Ministers from both sides signed the following agreements:

  1. An agreement on Environment Protection.
  2. An agreement on Cooperation in Combating Illicit Trafficking and Abuse of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
  3. An agreement on Visa Free Travel for Diplomatic, Official and Service Passport Holders.
  4. An agreement on Cooperation in the fields of Health and Medicine.
  5. Exchange Program on Cooperation in the field of Education
  6. Exchange Program on Cooperation in the field of Culture.

These agreements will further enhance the institutional framework created by those which have already been signed between the two countries.

8. Both sides agreed to increase the frequency of bilateral visits by Ministers and officials and to consolidate the ties between business communities of the two countries. People-to-people relations will also be encouraged, in order to increase and deepen understanding between the societies.

9. Both sides expressed their satisfaction with the impressive growth in bilateral economic relations. They believe that there is considerable untapped potential to enhance these relations, particularly in fields such as hi-tech and infrastructure where there are synergies, in order to encourage the private and public sectors to expand the scope of mutual trade and investments. Israel expressed its interest in and willingness to participate in key national Indian Projects. Indian companies were invited to expand their activities in Israel - to encompass the field of investment - and to participate in the process of privatization in Israel. Both sides will explore together the best ways to strengthen and implement these goals.

10. Both sides noted the scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries and expressed willingness to enhance participation in the joint fund for scientific research established in 1994, as well as explore the possibility of the establishment of a bi-national research and development fund in the industrial fields, particularly in bio-technology, information technology, telecommunication, agricultural research and the civilian use of outer space.

11. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the relations between the countries in the field of tourism, and called for the expansion of these relations as an additional tool for strengthening the bond of familiarity between their peoples.

12. Israel and India expressed their desire to work together, along with other countries and the international community, to create a new and better world - a world of peace, prosperity and welfare, for the benefit of all peoples and nationals.

13. Terrorism undermines the very foundation of freedom and democracy, endangers the continued existence of open and democratic societies and constitutes a global threat; therefore, there cannot be any compromise in the war against terrorism. Together with the international community and as victims of terrorism, Israel and India are partners in the battle against this scourge. In line with their adherence to UNSCR 1373, they strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and call upon the international community to take decisive action against this global menace, and condemn states and individuals who aid and abet terrorism across borders, harbour and provide sanctuary to terrorists and provide them with financial means, training or patronage.

14. India and Israel called for the establishment of a just and durable peace in the Middle East. The two sides expressed their respective views, and called for a complete cessation of violence, so that a conducive environment is created for continuation of the dialogue.

15. India and Israel share the goal of advancing peace, security and stability in their own region and respect for democracy in the entire world, and will continue efforts to encourage this trend.

16. Both sides paid tribute to the contribution of the Jewish community in India and the Indian community in Israel in providing a bridge of understanding and in strengthening the ties of culture and trade between the two countries. The shining example of the freedom always given to the Jews of India to practice their religion and give expression to their culture is a tribute to Indias religious tolerance and secularism and sends a vital message of coexistence and harmony to the international community.

17. Prime Minister Sharon invited Prime Minister Vajpayee to visit Israel. Prime Minister Vajpayee accepted this invitation with pleasure.

18. India and Israel believe that the State visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will further expand and enhance the framework of bilateral cooperation in various fields, and will contribute to strengthening the friendship between the two countries.


(2)  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Speech at the Israeli-Indian Business Conference in New Delhi.


Shalom to all of you.

Mr. Jaswant Singh, Minister of Finance

Mr. Joseph Lapid, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice from Israel

Mr. Israel Katz, Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Anand Mahindra, President of the Confederation of the Indian Industry,

Mr. Modi, Vice President of the Confederation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Ambassador of India to Israel

Israeli Ambassador to India

Mr. Avigdor Itzchaki, Director General of the Prime Ministers Office

Mr. Amos Yaron, Director General of the Ministry of Defense

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to greet all of you who arrived at this joint gathering of Indian and Israeli business-people.

I consider this meeting between business-people to be very important, and hope that this gathering will bear fruit and bring about better and stronger business ties between our countries.

I am in the midst of an extended and productive visit, during which I met with the political and economic leadership of India, and have had a small taste too small a taste of the human and historic landscape. It was very short from the beginning, and it became shorter. We had to cancel this time our visit to Mumbai due to the current terror events in Israel. I had to go back today, but at least I am happy that there are many things I would like to see here, and I am sure that I will be here again, and then well be visiting Bombay, as other places in this a beautiful, great country.

Since the renewal of our relations, 11 years ago, our countries have forged close, warm contacts. I see my visit to this grand and impressive country, which is the first visit to India of an Israeli Prime Minister in office, as the climax of our relations. It is my hope that following this visit, we will continue to develop our relations, and thereby contribute greatly to both Israel and India.

Both our nations have ancient cultures and legacies which had a great impact on the development of civilization in the entire world. Both our countries gained independence towards the second half of the 20th century, and chose to base their national sovereignty on the principles of freedom and democracy. If we take all the area from India across the Middle East, I think we are the only two democracies that exist here. If Israel were surrounded by democracies, I believe that we could have taken more risks, but we are the only ones there in our part of the world.

I am confident in the enormous potential for cooperation between our countries toward prosperity, and for the benefit of the entire human race.

During my visit here we decided to launch an Israeli space telescope on an Indian satellite. It is symbolic that two nations which are so deeply rooted in history are working together in fields which will help ensure a better future for us all.

During my meetings here, we discussed a wide variety of topics strengthening our bilateral relations in various fields and the advancement of regional and global causes.

Yesterday we signed a series of agreements between our countries, in order to improve and cement our ties, and increase cooperation between our peoples.

I was happy to hear from Prime Minister Vajpayee that he too attaches great importance to promoting the values of freedom and democracy around the world, and that he also sees terror as a serious threat, which requires a determined and uncompromising battle by the entire international community. Terror is the enemy of freedom and democracy. Israel and India, as countries who believe in these values, will, together with any other ally, combat this evil. Only a relentless struggle against terror will ensure a better future a future of peace and prosperity for ourselves, our children, and generations to come.

Israel is a peace-seeking country. Despite the repeated attacks against us, we have not lost the hope of living in peace with our neighbors. As a matter of fact, Israel has been facing the threat of terror for over 120 years. It didn’t start now. I have already stated that for genuine, durable, real peace, we will be willing to make painful compromises. But we will never compromise on the security of the citizens of Israel. It is my intention to make every effort to reach an agreement which will ensure security and stability, and will hopefully lead to peace in our region in the near future. But that, of course, depends upon the situation in the region. We cannot move forward in the political process unless there is full cessation of terror, hostilities and incitement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I firmly believe in relations between peoples, not only between leaders. My meetings here with Indian leaders are of great importance. However, the developing relations between our peoples are no less important. Therefore, when I was invited to India by Prime Minister Vajpayee, I decided to bring with me a delegation of the most senior and successful business-people in Israel, and also a delegation of representatives of Israels culture. The intention is that they use this visit for direct contact with their Indian hosts, get to know them and establish business and cultural ties between our countries.

Israel does not have natural resources. We have no gold, no oil, and no diamonds. There is, however, one resource which Israel is blessed with a resource which we have always nurtured and developed. This priceless resource, our greatest natural resource, is our human capital.

Although today Israel is mainly recognized around the world for its ongoing struggle for security, thanks to our wonderful people, we are also known throughout the world for the things we take pride in, such as the fact that we are the country which has the largest number of patents per capita, or as the country where the percentage of national investment in research and development from the GDP is the highest in the world. Israel has more engineers per capita than any other country in the world. We have a double number of engineers per capita in Israel, in comparison with the United States.

Thanks to the citizens of Israel we have succeeded, during the past fifty-five years, in reaching the cutting edge of the high-tech and scientific industries in the global markets. The signing of free trade agreements with the major economies in the world allows investment and trade to flourish. Israel has global leaders in scientific and medical research, computer and electronic technologies, bio-technology, agro-technology, and many other fields and in the future nano-technology. Many foreign universities and research companies have found Israel to be a natural partner in joint projects. We have creative methods of agriculture which have successfully coped with the harsh climate and environment of the Middle East. We decided to begin negotiations on the establishment of an additional joint agricultural farm in India, which will deepen our relations in this field and further improve the agricultural capabilities of Indian farmers.

I attach great significance to Israeli-Indian cooperation in these fields. Being at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, Israeli companies are always ready to answer global needs. In todays world of global markets and the electronic communications revolution, the geographical distance is no longer an obstacle to increasing trade between our countries. We are interested in advancing Indian projects, and would like Indian companies to expand their activities and invest in taking part in the privatization process which the Israeli economy is currently undergoing. I believe in reciprocity. We want to learn, and we believe that we can learn everywhere, we can learn many things here, and we are willing to share our know-how. We are ready to help and would like to be helped. I believe that relations should be based upon reciprocity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, politicians are not great business-people. If they were great business-people, I am sure they would not be in politics. They would not waste their time. So I will leave you to do what we believe you do best business. I am convinced that the personal ties which will be forged at this gathering, will lead to further meetings and visits between both countries, and to the strengthening of business ties between India and Israel.

We, the politicians, on our part, will do everything in our power to create fertile ground for business-people to cooperate with their counterparts, and provide better and more attractive conditions for realizing the tremendous potential of the relations between Israel and India.

I wish you a productive and interesting gathering, and hope to see you visiting Israel soon. I can assure you that you will be coming to a very friendly country. Its not only that the government and myself want to establish and strengthen and deepen our relations. I believe that there is great sympathy in Israel to India. I think one of the signs is that at the present time, we have 30,000 young Israelis visiting India.

I felt the friendship here in the last two days, I could not have expected a better or more beautiful reception than I had, and I invited the Prime Minister to visit Israel. I know one thing it will be very hard for us to reciprocate the most beautiful meetings and friendly atmosphere.

Again, I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the members of his cabinet, and everyone that we met with.

Thank you again, thank you so much.  

(3)  India, Israel to work towards signing FTA

(12-10-2010) JERUSALEM: India and Israel have agreed to kickstart talks on signing a financial pact next month to promote bilateral trade and lay the ground work for signing a free trade agreement (FTA), a media report said.  
Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz met his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee in Washington on the sidelines of last week's semi-annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank , business daily Globes reported.  
The two leaders have agreed to prepare the ground for an FTA, it added.  
Besides, the daily said, Steinitz would visit India in early 2011 with the heads of leading Israeli companies.  
Indo-Israel trade has grown from USD 200 million in 1992, when diplomatic relations were established between the two nations, with projections of USD 5 billion this year.  
India has jumped from the eighth position to second as the favoured destination for Israeli exports in the first half of 2010, according to Israel's Export and International Cooperation Institute.  
Israeli exports to India in the first half of this year were worth USD 990 million, an increase of 102 per cent compared to last year.  
"Israel cannot rely just on the markets in the US and Europe. We need new markets. We must look eastwards especially to India and China. I am interested in a closer connection between India and Israel, similar to the economic ties we have with the US and Europe," Steinitz was quoted by the business daily as saying.  
"I want to see Indian investments in Israel, just as there are investments by Israeli companies in India," he added.  
Steinitz dismissed apprehensions that an FTA with India would lead to jobs moving away from Israel to that country.  
India has leaped to become Israel's second largest export destination, only next to close ally the US, as the Jewish state focusses at tapping potential in Asian markets.  
The reason for this year's sharp jump in exports to India was a 63 per cent leap in shipments by Israel's mining, minerals and quarrying sectors, which exported USD 228 million worth of products, mainly fertilisers.  
One of the biggest exporters to India in this sector was Dead Sea Works, a subsidiary of Israel Chemicals.  
Exports of electronics equipment, including warfare systems, to India grew from less than USD 10 million in the first half of last year to USD 160 million this year, the institute reported.  
Major exporters in this sector included ECI Telecom and Comverse, TowerJazz, Elbit Systems and Rafael .  
Israeli exports to India of metals and metal products also increased from USD 21 million to USD 130 million, a sharp increase of 524 percent.



  1. DOCUMENTS /EventsNon-official

        (i) Indian National Congress

(19-11-1991)NEW DELHI – In a message to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) President, Yasser Arafat, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, PM Narasimha Rao reaffirms India’s unequivocal commitment and unstinted support to the legitimate aspirations of the people of Palestine.

(23-11-1991) NEW DELHI – EAM Madhavsinh Solanki rules out early restoration of diplomatic ties between India and Israel, stating any further recognition of Tel Aviv will depend on a “genuine settlement” of the West Asian issue.

(25-11-1991) NEW DELHI (RS)– India will consider establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel depending on the settlement of Palestine question the talks for which were to be held soon. We will have to await the progress of the talks between Israel and the Arab states including the Palestine Liberation Organisation (MS for EA Eduardo Faleiro).

(29 -11-1991) New Delhi : A function was held in New Delhi to observe the Indian Solidarity Day with the Palestinian people. Shri Eduardo Faleiro, Minister of State for External Affairs, in his address reiterated the Indian solidarity with the Palestinian people. Dr Najma Heptulla, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, recalled the background of the Palestinian struggle and India's consistent support for the Palestinian rights.

(12-12-1991) New Delhi (LS) – Normalisation of relations with Israel was contingent upon progress in the ongoing peace process in west Asia.  India was committed to support all efforts to bring about a just and comprehensive settlement in West Asia.  (EAM – Madhavsinh Solanki)

(20 - 22 January, 1992) NEW DELHI : President Yasser Arafat visited India from 20 to 22 January 1992 on a State visit. Besides calling on the President, he had discussions with the Prime Minister and also met with the Vice President, the Minister of State for External Affairs, and the Ministers for Finance and Human Resource Development. Leaders of some political parties i.e. CPI, CPM, Janta Dal and BJP, also called on him. During his stay, President Arafat was also presented the Indira Gandhi International Award by the Indian Council for World Affairs. He held a Press Conference, at which he clearly articulated the Palestinian stand that the presence of India at the Middle East peace talks was desirable and that any sovereign step that India might take by way of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel would be totally within India's prerogative.

(29.01.1992) Israel and India established full diplomatic relations.

(First week of February 1992) J. N. Dixit, Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, briefed Arab and Muslim ambassadors, after the Indian decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. He told them that ‘There was no change in India’s policy on the Palestinian question or on the importance that we attached to nurturing close friendship with Arab countries’ .

(28 -10-1992) India's first Ambassador to Israel presented his credentials .

(26 -11 1992) Israeli Ambassador to India presented his credentials in New Delhi.

(1999) Congress Election Manifesto Manifesto

India has watched with great interest the unfolding of the peace process in West Asia. It will play whatever role it Is called upon .to play in placing this process on .a more solid footing. India’s traditionally close links with other countries in the Middle East and the Gulf will not only be preserved but also expanded.

(2004) Congress Election Manifesto

‘The Congress ----- will revive the country’s close ties with West Asia and other non-aligned countries.’

(23-05-2004) Common Minimal Program of the UPA : When the new UPA coalition government was formed by the Congress party in May 2004, the following proclamation, as part of the Common Minimal Program of the UPA, was made: “The UPA government reiterates India's decadesold commitment to the cause of the Palestinian people for a homeland of their own.:”

(01-07-2004)(Indian Express)- The Indian Defence Minister in the UPA government, Pranab Mukherjee, declared: “There will be no change in the existing defense ties between India and Israel”

(12-07 -2004) (Times of India) -In May 2004 the Indian government changed, replaced by the newly formed UPA coalition. Natwar K. Singh, Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement at the time of its 1983 summit, and Minister of State for External Affairs in Rajiv Gandhi’s government (1986-1989), became  India’s Minister of External Affairs. In opposition he had been critical of the NDA governments’ promotion of Israeli–Indian relations at the expense of the Palestinians . In his new position he made it a point of maintaining India’s traditional ties with the Israeli-Indian relations. He summarized this policy: “We greatly value our relationship with Israel but this will not and should not affect our relations with Palestine”

(May2005)-Congress resolution on External Security and International Affairs-Introduced by Shri Pranab K. Mukherjee –(Congress Sandesh)

“The Indian National Congress recalls the long association with the struggle of the people of Palestine and mourns the passing away of President Arafat. The continuing distress of Palestine despite the peace process remains a concern for India. The Indian National Congress hopes that the Government will do its utmost to help in the resolution of the conflict Meanwhile, India's friendly relations with Israel and meaningful cooperation between the two countries have facilitated India's efforts to help in the process.” 


“The AICC recalls that right from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress has remained unwavering in its support to the Palestinian cause. The Congress has always supported the establishment of a sovereign, independent viable state of Palestine, within well-defined and recognized borders, living side-by-side at peace with the state of Israel through a negotiated solution to the conflict there. The AICC calls upon the Congress-led UPA government to expand its aid and emergency relief programme to the Palestinian authorities.”

(22-07-2008)-PM's reply to the debate on the Motion of Confidence in the Lok Sabha

I state categorically that our foreign policy, will at all times be determined by our own assessment of our national interest. This has been true in the past and will be true in future regarding our relations with big powers as well as with our neighbours in West Asia, notably Iran, Iraq, Palestine and the Gulf countries.’

(2009) Lok Sabha Elections -Manifesto of the Indian National Congress

‘The Indian National Congress has always championed the legitimate and peaceful aspirations of the long-suffering Palestinian people and urges that a viable Palestinian state be established at the earliest. ’

(19-12-2010)- FOREIGN POLICY RESOLUTION -AICC sessionBurari,New Delhi-

“India’s ‘India has remained steadfast in providing its unwavering support for the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign state of their own. A just settlement of the Palestinian issue and the creation of an independent and stable Palestine is an imperative for enduring peace in West Asia.”

(ii)       Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)

(1) Counter-terrorism, key area of cooperation with Israel: Vajpayee

(09-09-2003) NEW DELHI  :  The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, called on the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and held 40-minute-long "restricted" and separate delegation-level talks with the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, this evening. Mr. Sharon also met the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, and had a 75-minute-long interaction with the External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha. The National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, also called on him.

Mr. Vajpayee, who hosted a banquet for Mr. Sharon after the formal talks at Hyderabad House, said the Israeli leader's visit was an "important landmark" in bilateral relations. "The people of India and Israel have a long history of civilisational contact. Our lands have supported the birth of great and ancient religions and civilisations. Jewish communities in India have, over the centuries, painted rich colours into the mosaic of Indian society." Mr. Vajpayee said that in the relatively short span of 11 years of formal diplomatic relations, India and Israel had established a "vibrant" partnership. "India is one of Israel's strongest trading partners in Asia today."

"Our defence cooperation rests on a foundation of mutual understanding of security concerns. Our people-to-people interaction has been enriched through tourism, student exchanges and cultural contacts. All these strands are tied together by a political understanding between us," he said.

Counter-terrorism was a key area of cooperation between the two countries, Mr. Vajpayee said and added that "another aspect" of "our common experience" is the menace of terrorism. "Bilaterally and on the international plane, we are contributing to the global fight against terrorism. It is a menace that particularly targets democratic societies, which have to fashion a global and comprehensive response to it," he said. "Simultaneously, we are engaged in the process of improving relations with all our neighbours. West Asia and the Gulf region are a part of our extended neighbourhood, with which we have long-standing cultural and civilisational links," he said.

Without making a direct reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Vajpayee said that India would "very much like" to see an end to violence and restoration of "peace in these troubled lands".

(2) BJP President, Nitin Gadkari on a  Goodwill visit to Israel-(13-12-2010)
The BJP President Shri Nitin Gadkari left for Israel on 13 December  2010 to study joint Indo-Israel research and development projects of mutual interest in the field of agriculture, irrigation, water management, renewable energies, crop production, nanotechnology and biotechnology.   

During his six-day  goodwill visit,  Shri Gadkari was  accompanied by a delegation of senior BJP leaders including General Secretary (organization) Shri Ramlal, General Secretary & former Rajasthan Chief Minister, Smt. Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Shri Om Prakash Dhankar, President, BJP Kisan Morcha. Other members the delegation include, Shri Satpal Malik, Shri Subhash Deshmukh & Shri Manvendra Singh (all ex-MPs) and Shri Vijay Jolly, Joint Convener, BJP External Affairs Cell.

The BJP President’s visit also aimed at further promoting the people-to-people contacts between India and Israel. According an international opinion survey conducted in to 2009 on behalf of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, India is the most pro-Israel country in the world.

(3)Israeli Parliament welcomes BJP President, Nitin Gadkari
(16-12-2010)Jerusalem : The Israeli Knesset (Parliament) welcomed the visiting BJP President Nitin Gadkari when he arrived in the distinguished visitors gallery along with his party delegation.  

The Speaker welcomed the BJP President and his party delegation to the Israeli Knesset and he was joined by Treasury as well as the Opposition benches who applauded Mr. Gadkari with thumping of desks.

Later, the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Dan Meridor MK, told Mr. Gadkari that the rules of procedure prohibit applauding any visiting dignitary in the House. But members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) belonging to all political parties set aside the rules and greeted the BJP delegation with thumping of desks because of the strong friendly Indo-Israeli relations.

(4) BJP President Nitin Gadkari condoles the death of 42 Israeli citizens  
in devastating fire in Northern Israel

(16-12-2010)Jerusalem : The visiting BJP President Nitin Gadkari has expressed his profound grief and sorrow over the loss of 42 lives in the devastating fire in northern Israel last week.

Mr. Gadkari conveyed his sympathies for the bereaved families of the fire victims when he met the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Dan Meridor MK here.

Mr. Meridor thanked the BJP President for his sympathies and said "I know you brought the rain with you. I wish you had arrived here a week ago, perhaps there would have been no damage."

Most parts of Israel experienced heavy rains the day Mr. Gadkari arrived along with a BJP delegation on a six-day goodwill visit to Israel. There have hardly been any rains in Israel in the last six months.

  (5)BJP President, Nitin Gadkari calls for promoting political level  contact   with Israel   
(17-12-2010)Tel Aviv : India and Israel need to enhance political level dialogue and promote people-to-people contact between the two countries with a view to further cementing their bilateral ties in a wide range of areas of mutual interest.  

A broad consensus to this effect emerged at a series of meetings the visiting BJP president Nitin Gadkari had with leaders of the ruling as well as the opposition parties of Israel during the course of his current goodwill visit here.

Mr. Gadkari, who is accompanied by a delegation of senior BJP leaders, met the leader of the opposition in Israeli Knesset (parliament) and former Foreign Affairs Minister, Ms. Tzipi Livni and head of the Parliamentary India-Israel Group, Ms. Rachel Adatto, both belonging to the principal opposition Kadima Party.

The BJP president and his delegation had met the leader of the ruling Likud Party and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Dan Meridor yesterday.

The last high level political contact was in 2003 when the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon paid an official visit to India.

Mr. Gadkari said Prime Minister Sharon was accorded a warm welcome by the then NDA Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had hoped that the visit would pave the way for further consolidation of the bilateral ties.

The BJP president said his party has always accorded high priority to promoting bilateral relations between the two countries at all levels.

Mr. Gadkari is having a hectic schedule here visiting several research and development joint ventures of mutual interest in the field of fisheries, food processing, dairy industries and agro-tech industries.

During his interaction with the experts in these fields, the BJP leader evinced keen interest in the Israeli technology for quality seeds which play an important role in determining yield level and in turn augmentation in the level of crop production.

Speaking at a reception, Mr. Gadkari told Israeli entrepreneurs that India has emerged as a land of opportunities for investments in the field of infrastructure, Information Technology, health services, pharmaceuticals and agro-tech industries. "We are promoting research and development joint ventures and collaborations in these sectors in all the NDA ruled states", the BJP President said.

A large number of Israeli entrepreneurs were present at the reception hosted by Reena Pushkarna, a leading promoter of Indo-Israeli relations.

(6)BJP President Nitin Gadkari talk over phone with Israeli Prime  Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu reaffirms support to India in its fight against terrorism  

(18-12-2010) Jerusalem : The Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, today reaffirmed his government's commitment to promote Indo-Israel cooperation in fighting terrorism in all its manifestations.

Mr. Netanyahu told the visiting BJP President, Mr. Nitin Gadkari that Israel shared India's security concerns and was cooperating with New Delhi in this regard.

The Israeli Prime Minister spoke to Mr. Gadkari over phone and thanked him for visiting Israel at the invitation of his government.

Mr. Gadkari appreciated the warm welcome extended to him and his party delegation by the Israeli government and reiterated the BJP's strong commitment to friendly relations with Israel.

The BJP President apprised Mr. Netanyahu of the research and development projects he had visited in the fields of homeland security, agro-tech industries, including fisheries, irrigation, water management etc.

Mr. Gadkari assured the Israeli Prime Minister that he would explore the opportunities for collaborative research and development and training in these areas in respective institutions of the two countries, particularly in the NDA ruled states.

Mr. Gadkari also met the governor of Israeli Central Bank Stanley Fischer and explored the trade potential between the two countries in untapped areas.

Diamonds constituted about 41.9 % of the bilateral trade in the year 2009. Other major export items from India to Israel during the year 2009 were diamonds, plants and vegetable products, textiles and textile articles, base metals and machinery.

Major items exported by Israel to India were mineral products, diamonds, base metals, machinery, transport equipment and telecom and software products and services.

According to figures available from the department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Government of India, FDI inflows from Israel to India from April 2000 to April 2010 totalled US $ 51.87 million. Many Israeli companies also invest in India through the US and Europe.

(iii)   Communist Party of India (CPI)


Central Organ of the Communist Party of India

September 13, 2010


Building the Party Our First Priority

Excerpts  from the text of the Political-Organisational Report adopted in the National Council meeting held in Bangaluru from December 27-29, 2009:

Tilt Towards US

27. In the international sphere, the government is seeking to draw India into a strategic partnership with the US, the most powerful imperialist aggressor of the present time. It is even ganging up with Israel. At the same time, India’s eminent position in the developing world obliges it to develop relations with China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa etc. We the Left have to and are striving to end this dilemma and draw India away from any strategic partnership with imperialist US and its surrogate Israel.

Whether it is in relation to the WTO negotiations on the Doha Round or the Climate Change negotiations, the government constantly tries to placate the US and yield to its pressure at the cost of India’s national interests. In doing so at Copenhagen it has broken ranks with the group of developing countries. We have to resist this.

28. It would however be an exaggeration to think that India’s sovereignty is being surrendered or compromised as a result of the several agreements and deals with the US and Israel. The Indian people will never allow it. But the policy pursued by the Government is harmful and leads towards dependence in several fields. Basing on our traditions of anti-imperialism, non-alignment and solidarity with all people fighting for freedom and progress we must firmly oppose these compromising policies of Government.


Central Organ of the Communist Party of India

September 15, 2010

Citizens Protest Against Israeli Aggression on Relief ships to Gaza

NEW DELHI: Hundreds of citizens of Delhi under the banner of Solidarity with Palestine staged a protest demonstration on Israeli Embassy condemning the reckless and senseless bombing on the Relief Ships for the people in Gaza. The inhumane bombing is continuing and shameless regime of Israel has no remorse in killing of innocents. The protestors were stopped on Shahjahan Road by police barricades.

The protestors included the activists of Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Lok Jan Shakti Party, Milli Council, AISA and several intellectuals and students from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. The procession was led by Amarjeet Kaur and Atul Kumar Anjaan, secretaries CPI, Sita Ram Yechury member politbureau CPI(M), Pushpinder Grewal CPI(M), Shoaib Iqbal, MLA, Zafar Ullaha Khan of Milli Council, Kamal Mitra Chenoy and Prabir Purukayasth among others. The protestors demanded end to the war activities of Israel and vacation of Palestine and other forcibly occupied territories of Arab nations.

The speakers deplored the UPA government’s continuous policy of making bridges with Israeli aggressors. Indian government being one of the largest buyers of armaments from Israel and also developing trade relations in the fastest pace is actually extending in direct help to the regime of aggression, expansion and occupation, they alleged.

The UPA government has forgotten the lessons of history when our freedom fighters and national leaders even in pre-independence era stood with the cause of Palestine.

Today the government is shying of even naming Israel as aggressor on Palestine and on the relief workers.

They demanded that Indian government should cut of its relationship with Israeli government.

Citizens Committee in Solidarity with Palestine appealed to the people to consistently pursue these protests to force the Indian government to change its stand.


The Communist Party of India strongly condemns Israel's piratical attacks on the high seas on a flotilla of civilian aid ships for Gaza strip which is facing a blockade.  This deadly attack in the International Waters has left a score of people dead and many injured.


The belligerent act of Israel has once again proved that to what extent Israel could go defying the world public opinion and humanitarian values.  It is a fact that Israel is fully backed by US in its war against the Palestinian people.

While the whole world condemns the Israeli attack, the response of the Government of India is weak.  This is due to its multiple cooperation with Israel including military one. The Party demands that India should take a firm stand and condemn Israel.

The Communist Party of India calls upon all peace loving and anti imperialist forces to condemn Israeli attack and express solidarity with the people of Palestine.







The biggest betrayal by the Manmohan Singh government was to forge a strategic alliance with the United States of America and to resile from the commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy.

• The Congress-led government signed a ten-year Defence Framework Agreement with the US for military collaboration. This was done secretly without any discussion or information given to the country.

• The Manmohan Singh government shamelessly lined up with the United States to vote against Iran in the IAEA in order to get the nuclear deal through the US Congress.

• In place of the CMP, the agenda of the Indo-US CEO Forum, which recommended FDI in retail trade, insurance, banking, education, etc., became the guiding light of the Manmohan Singh government.

The Manmohan Singh government has pursued the US-Israel-India axis, an idea mooted by the BJP-led government. It has entered into deep security and military collaboration with Israel. Israel has become the biggest supplier of weapons to India and the billions of dollars spent by India helps Israel suppress the Palestinian people.


The Left parties withdrew support from the UPA government on July 9,2008 after the government decided to go ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal as part of its ongoing quest for a strategic alliance with the United States. In December 2007, when the matter was debated in parliament, it became clear that a majority of Members of Parliament were not for the deal. The Manmohan Singh government concentrated its entire energy to pursue the deal without caring for the people’s suffering due to galloping price rise and the growing rural distress. The CPI(M) and the left parties could not support a government which was so intent on acting at the behest of the US agenda for India to the detriment of an independent foreign policy and strategic autonomy.



Foreign Policy

CPI (M) will work for:

• An independent and non-aligned foreign policy, which defends India from imperialist pressures; Initiatives for South-South cooperation and reviving the Non-Aligned Movement on a new basis

• Promoting multipolarity in international relations; strengthen BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) cooperation, improve relations with China and expand trilateral cooperation between Russia, India and China

• Opposing US military interventions; distancing from US-sponsored “war on terror”

• Strengthening multilateral forums like the UN to deal with all disputes between countries; democratizing the Security Council and the UN structure

• Amending the Constitution to make legislative sanction mandatory for any international treaty

• Promoting people to people relations between India and Pakistan; Resuming Indo-Pak dialogue at a suitable time

• Diplomatic and political efforts to protect the lives of Tamil people in the war zone in Sri Lanka; Working for an immediate political settlement based on autonomy for the Tamil speaking areas withinthe framework of a united Sri Lanka

• Giving special attention to promote SAARC cooperation and improving relations with all neighbouring countries in South Asia; coordinate efforts with South Asian countries to combat terrorism and religious extremism

Building close ties with West Asian countries; pursue Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline resisting US pressure • Extending support to the Palestinian cause; severing military and security ties with Israel

• Pursuing the Look East policy; strengthen economic cooperation with South East and East Asian countries

Security Matters

• Reviewing and reworking the 123 Agreement with the US for civil nuclear cooperation to remove the harmful clauses; Pursuing selfreliance in civilian nuclear energy based on domestic uranium and thorium reserves

• Pursuing universal nuclear disarmament through the UN; Providing parliamentary sanction for moratorium on testing; Striving for a denuclearised environment in South Asia; Seeking removal of nuclear weapons from the US military base in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

• Abrogating the Defence Framework Agreement with the US and cessation of Indo-US joint military exercises

• Promoting the policy of no foreign military bases in South Asia

• Creating a national security apparatus, which will work within the framework of the parliamentary democratic system

(2) Indian Govt Should Sever Defence Ties with Israel: Prakash Karat

  People's Democracy-Weekly Organ of the Communist Party  of India (Marxist)

                                                  (Vol. XXXIV,No.40,October 03, 2010)

(By Srinivasan Ramani, Dhananjay Tripathi & Indranil Mukherjee)


Noted academics, political leaders and activists from the different parts of the world gathered for a two day conference in New Delhi on ‘A Just Peace for Palestine’. The conference held on September 23-24, 2010 was jointly organised by the Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, Palestine BDS National Committee, All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation and other like-minded organisations. Speaking at the open session  on September 24, CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat came down heavily on the Indian government for deepening defence and security ties with the Zionist regime in Israel.  The Indian government has deliberately not namedIsrael in the statement issued by the external affairs ministry after the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla. There is an impression among ordinary Kashmiris today that the Indian government is seeking advice from Israel on handling the situation there. All this goes against what Indian political opinion has always been, since the days of freedom struggle, Prakash Karat said. He alleged that the multi-billion dollar defence deals with Israel have become a major source of corruption and kickbacks, corroding the integrity of Indian defence establishment. Currently, there is a move to give a clean chit to the Israeli defence firms, which were blacklisted earlier by the government for being involved in kickbacks. All this is happening because the voices in solidarity with the Palestinian people in India have weakened inside the Indian parliament. Prakash Karat urged upon the leaders of other parties present on the dais (Mani Shankar Aiyar, D P Tripathi etc.) to join the Left Parties in demanding steadfast official support for the Palestinian cause and severing of military ties with Israel. He said that the Left will launch a campaign in India to support the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The Left will appeal to the trade unions to collectively boycott Israeli ships in the Indian ports and docks, like what has already happened in Kochi, he said.

The concluding session was chaired by senior journalist Seema Mustafa. As the first speaker, Bangladeshi trade union leader Rashed Menon expressed support for the Palestinian struggle on behalf of the people of Bangladesh. The chairman of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Manzurul Khan said that the history of Israel is the history of violence and violations of human rights. He asserted that the people of the world were for peace in Palestine and these voices needed to be strengthened. The president of the Jatiya Samaj Kranti Dal and member of parliament of Bangladesh, Moinuddin Khan said that Israel is a Zionist state and a stigma in the face of humanity and that our subcontinent can do a lot for Palestine. He urged upon India to take a bold stand in favour of Palestine.

Palestinian leader Dr Mustafa Barghouti argued that peace in Palestine can never come with the continuing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. He said that while in 1947, Palestinian settlements amounted to 45 per cent of the total land; this had reduced to merely 11 per cent in 2005. There was no scope for peace until Israel halted the construction of the apartheid wall. The military arms that Israel was supplying India, were tested on the Palestinian people in Gaza, he said. Indiawas the largest buyer of Israeli arms and the international BDS campaign would not succeed unless a strong people’s movement in India was launched to change the Indian Government’s pro-Israel shift.

Mani Shankar Aiyar, Rajya Sabha member, said that India was the only major non-Muslim country in 1947 which opposed the partition of Palestine. Gandhiji had said that Palestine belonged to the Palestinian Arabs, as much as England belonged to the English. Indian democracy has demonstrated with its plurality that unity is possible through diversity. Yet, the Indian establishment is going against India’s long held position on Palestine. He said that he was deeply moved by the sufferings of the Palestinians and would continue to raise the issue in parliament.

D P Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party, said that every person who believes in democracy and stood against apartheid, should supportPalestine. There is a continuous social, economic and psychological blockade of the Palestinian people by Israel and that a new flotilla from India involving South Asian people for Palestine has to be initiated.

CPI general secretary A B  Bardhan said that if the current peace process is only meant to legitimise Israeli oppression, he was opposed to it. He asserted that solidarity with the Palestinian people had no meaning unless there was a concerted opposition to the military alliance with Israel. He argued that Indian intelligence was in cahoots with Israeli intelligence and that Indian democracy was under threat because of this.

Palestinian speakers like Jamal Juma and Jamal Zahalka also spoke on the occasion. The meeting ended with the adoption of a resolution calling for an intense BDS campaign against Israel in India.

The two day session began on September 23. Father Miguel Brockmann, former president of the UN general assembly, while addressing the gathering emphasised that Palestinians live under the conditions of apartheid, whereby their basic livelihood rights are brutally curtailed by the Israeli authority. Israeli oppression is in complete violation of the UN Human Rights Charter. He emphasised that the explicit recognition of Israeli oppression by the international community is a prerequisite to any genuine peace process in the conflict ridden region of West Asia. He further said that the MDGs set by the UN are bound to fail because they are set as ‘goals and targets’ and not ‘rights’, and nobody is held accountable for failing the targets. He emphasised that recognition of basic rights of Palestinian people is essential.

Jamal Zahalka, a member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), pointed out that Palestine is the only nation in the world which is geographically segregated and in each of the segregated part of the nation, Israeli authority exerts varying forms of oppression to assert its hegemony. He vehemently opposed Israel’s claim to be recognised as a Democratic Jewish state. He explained that Israel wants to establish the Jewish state by physically eliminating the Palestinian people living in Israel. This is fundamentally contradictory to the notion of democracy. Any formal recognition of Israel as a democratic state would firmly establish Zionist hegemony and delegitimize the struggle of Palestinian people, he said.

Professor Aijaz Ahmed said that the resolution of the Palestine issue is central to lasting peace in West Asia. He pointed out how the position of the leadership of the Indian National Congress on Palestine has changed over the decades. Gandhi had unambiguously recognised the rights of Palestinian people on their land, a view which was later championed by Nehru and his followers in the Non-Aligned Movement. However, the official Indian position has shifted since the 1990s towards closer ties with Israel. He linked the shift with the emergence of Hindutva and neo-liberalism and fall of the socialist block.

Professor Richard Falk of Princeton University sarcastically termed India’s lack of voice on Palestinian cause as ‘geopolitical laryngitis’ at a time when India enjoys greater geopolitical significance. He emphasised that self determination of Palestine can be achieved only through political struggles. He explained the need for soft power instruments against the hard power dominance of the Israel and US combine, drawing inspiration from the non-violence movement of Gandhi.

Professor Falk and Professor Aijaz Ahmad opined that unless an objective assessment of historical events of 1948 and 1967 are done and the crimes committed against the Palestinian people are recognised, the present problem cannot be resolved.

Prabir Purkayastha of the Delhi Science Forum, drew attention to the increasing Indian defence purchases from Israel and greater dependence on Israeli Intelligence and emphasised the need to build up a strong movement in India for the academic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel. Other speakers, including Jamal Juma, co-ordinator of Stop the Wall Campaign, Lisa Taraki of Birzeit University and Ilan Pappe of University of Exeter, explained the significance of the boycott campaign as an effective non-violent weapon to delegitimize the Zionist establishment in Israel and counter their propaganda.

The first session of second day was on an Asian response to the Palestinian peace issue and it was chaired by Professor Upendra Baxi. As the first speaker of the session, Professor Achin Vanaik of Delhi University said that we have to provide a critical but unconditional support to Hamas. He focused on the US geopolitical strategies in West Asia to maintain its domination through supporting Israel. He cautioned against over-dependence on Turkey as it is one of the member-countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation aspiring as well to join the European Union. Exposing the irrational demands of the US, Professor Vanaik said that it is an imperialist country which had invaded Iraq and Afghanistan recently. A country with imperialist designs will never attempted to find a solution for Palestine, he asserted.  He also said that civil society resistance to American imperialism is intensified in the recent past and we should strengthen it further. He suggested the organisation of another flotilla with US citizens on the board and to have an international musical concert supporting the Palestinian cause, in one of prominent US cities.

Mustafa Barghouti, a candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, described the specificity of empire building in the region. According to him peace initiatives will fail because it is aimed at domestication of Palestinian political process and issues. The peace process cannot take place without acknowledging the suffering of the Palestinian people.  With the help of maps and illustrations, Mustafa Barghouti explained how Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory has slowly increased recently. Earlier areas belonging to the Palestinian settlement was 45 per cent of the total land, which had now shrunk to 11 percent. The peace process must focus on settlements, he argued while asserting that Israel had a vested interest in delegitimising  the democratic process in Palestine. Barghouti appealed to the Indian people to support the Palestinian cause. He reminded that India had stood steadfastly against the apartheid regime of South Africa. Today Israel is the biggest violator of international law and Israel is the instrument of all imperialist design providing enough reason to  oppose  Israel.

Walden Bello , co-founder of Focus on Global South, Ilan Pape, professor of history in the University of Exeter, also spoke on this occasion. The second session of the day was on an Action Plan for Ending the Apartheid and was chaired by Professor Richard Falk. The first speaker of the session Ms. Lisa Taraki  a sociologist at Birzeit University of Palestine said that BDS must be intensified and cautioned against the brand Israel campaign. The Israeli academic and cultural institutions are major instruments of Zionist propaganda, he mentioned.  Dr. Mordecai Briemberg also addressed the session.,  All the speakers emphasised that until the Israeli oppression of Palestine people ends, the much sought after ‘two-state solution’ will never get realised. The Conference gave a united call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel.


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