Modi Goes to Israel
A strong Israeli/Indian relationship is good for India but is great for Israel.
The Begin-Sadat Strategic Studies piece on the first prime ministers of India’s visit to Israel is positive to say the least, it was longer, I cut it some.
BESA — At the beginning of July, Narendra Modi will arrive for a first-ever visit by an Indian PM to Israel. This trip reflects the significant expansion in relations between the two countries that has taken place since the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1992.
Since Modi and the BJP came to power in May 2014, his administration has shed its predecessors’ reservations about regular public discourse regarding India’s ties with Israel. It is worthy of note that Modi’s trip to Israel is not planned to be “balanced” with a visit to the Palestinian Authority, indicating that India has freed its relations with Israel from its historical commitment to the Palestinian issue. Indeed, India has modified its voting pattern at international organizations by refraining to join the automatic majority against Israel.
India and Israel display high levels of threat perception and share a common strategic agenda. Both have waged major conventional wars against their neighbors and have experienced low‐intensity conflict and terror, as they are both involved in protracted conflicts characterized by complex ethnic and religious components not always well understood by outsiders. Both face weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of their rivals.
The two nations share a common threat: radical offshoots of Islam in the greater Middle East. Israel regards parts of the Arab world — Saudi Arabia in particular — as hubs for Islamic extremism, while India views Saudi‐Pakistani relations with suspicion. Moreover, India fears the Pakistani nuclear arsenal might ultimately fall into the hands of Islamic radicals.
For Israel, Islamic radicals in the Arab world and in the Islamic Republic of Iran constitute a constant security challenge. This challenge has become more acute as Iran’s nuclear potential has grown. The more recent ISIS phenomenon has ramifications beyond the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, as its offshoots threaten the stability of Egypt and Jordan — Israel’s neighbors — and are increasingly sources of concern in south and southeast Asia.
India has gradually overcome its inhibitions and engaged in security cooperation with Israel. In the wake of diplomatic normalization in 1992, then Indian Defense Minister Sharad Pawar admitted to having already cooperated with Israel on counterterrorism. This cooperation, which involves exchange of information on the finances, recruitment patterns, and training of terrorist groups, is conducted away from the public eye. The November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks underscored the need for better counterterrorism preparations in India and elicited greater cooperation with Israeli agencies.
While India, a major player in the international system, has improved relations with Washington, New Delhi’s links with Jerusalem have the potential to smooth over some of the remaining difficulties in dealing with the US. Working with Israel fits into Modi’s plan to deepen relations with the US given the US‐Israel friendship.