Israel

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The Israeli Relationship – Moralistic, Geopolitical & Palestine Considerations Analysed

Published July 5, 2017 by vishalvkale

This week, just yesterday as a matter of fact, our Prime Minister landed in Israel  – the first ever Prime Ministerial visit to that nation from our side. This is a seminal event; yet, it was saddening to see some voices being guarded, as opposed to openly welcoming this move. In a democracy, it is perfectly fine if you don’t support the ruling party, having voted for the other side; it is accepted as well as expected that you criticize – but when the Government does something laudable – you should welcome it.
This move by the NaMo Government stands in that list; a fully laudable move, one that we would do well to welcome, leaving our apprehensions aside for the time being. On that other hand – this is not a time for chest-thumping either; let us reflect what this move means for us as a nation, and analyse the pluses and the minuses of this new equation. Whatever else we look at, this is not the time for misguided moralistic analyses – Geopolitics is not a field that lends itself to excessive moralization, to be honest. You have to be extremely hard-nosed and practical in Geopolitics.
THE MORAL OBJECTIONS
These stem from the Israel-Palestine issue; and the hard-nosed Israeli response. I feel for the problem, to be honest; but I have to admit with deep regret that they aren’t Indians – and Indian interests have to be placed first. I don’t say I like the way it is being handled – but there is little we can do, beyond a point. We aren’t the world police – and neither do we want to be the world policeman either. The onlyway to look at this problem is from a Geopolitical angle; not a right-and-wrong angle.
Further, it is surprising to note objections being raised basis Palestine, and in some cases China: I do not recall many voices questioning our relationship with the USA, which actively sends arms and aid to Pakistan, and which was the original provider of weapons to our enemy, leading from the Afghan conflict. The continuing support from the USA to Pakistan is a matter of documented record – and yet  few people raised a question as we went closer to the USA. Where were these moralizing objections then?
Not only that, Is the USA’s record crystal clear? Want that we should go into its highly chequered and ugly history? Or perhaps the innumerable times it stopped India, or tried to, from achieving its justified goals? I respectfully submit that The USA has a far uglier record than the Israelis who actually are saints by comparison. Remember the Iraq Fiasco? Where are those WMDs? And yet, we welcome closer ties – because it is the primary world power, and a much-sought after relationship?
I don’t recall as many questions being raised on the impact of our relationship with the Russians as we came closer to The USA. Why is that? So, it is OK if you go after an aspirational relationship with the premier world power, forgetting our long standing support from Russia? That is something that has required far more serious thought, and has been handled very adroitly by all Central Governments we have had; let us give them credit for that. Thus, cant we cut slack for our Government and our Diplomatic forces that they can handle Israel and Palestine with equal aplomb?
Yet, when we come to Israel, we get instant moralization. Where was this moralization when The USA is involved? Its human rights record is ugly beyond mention – yet, no controversy. Where was this moralistic stance when we moved USA-wards, forgetting that it was Russia who has always stood by us? When has the USA ever stood for us in Geopolitics? Almost never historically! What’s good for the geese is good for the gander – you cannot ignore moralistic issues in one relationship, and apply them in another. You have to apply the precise same standards in each case.
GEOPOLITICS
More serious are the Geopolitical objections, which to be perfectly frank – deserve a serious reading, and merit a reasoned response from us. To summarise, these are India-Iran; Arabs; NRIs in the Middle East; and the Israeli-Chinese relationship. We need to look at all of these in an informed debate : a dispassionate analysis of these is required, shorn of ideological baggage. Some of these frankly are fantastic, like the NRI problem or how our NRIs will be treated due to a relationship with Israel – that is just stretching things too far. The Arab world also has relations with Israel!
First, India is seeking alternatives to OPEC actively, trying to reduce the dependence on it for Oil. Second, some Arab nations are anyway fedup with Pakistan due to terrorism, and that is a huge point in our favour. Third, The Arab World is itself giving overtures to Israel – Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to be specific. We are also building relationships with The Arab World, who can also see our impact in Afghanistan. So, why on earth shouldn’t we build a relationship with Israel?  Fourth, Iran has seen our support to them in the face of The USA – and our diplomatic forces can be expected to handle the delicate relationship balance. That leads to Fifth – the Israel visit comes after a visit to the Arab world!Thus,  If we can balance USA and Russia, we can certainly be expected to balance Iran and Israel, that much seems to be certain. Let us not sell ourselves short.
Now, the Israeli Chinese Relationship. Why on earth should this make us uneasy? First of all, Israel is but of three major defense partners of ours, alongside the USA and Russia. We have hedged our bets, not being dependent on any one partner. Sure, a lot more needs to be done, but the direction is right. Second, Israel had supported us in 1962 against China. While that is no guarantee of the future, it is nevertheless a significant factor. It actively supported our Armed  Forces as well as our anti-terror efforts many times after that as well, including as recently as in 1999 during the Kargil conflict. Third – we are perfectly fine with having a relationship with USA, which is supporting Pakistan openly – but use a different yardstick to judge the India and Israel relationship! That is amazing!
PALESTINE
Finally, on Palestine, I accept that we have been a long-standing supporter of the cause.  But we need to understand that we need to look out for ourselves first. We are in a world with rapidly re-aligning geopolitical relationships. In such changing times, we need to change with the times, and respond to the challenges being raised. A strategic alignment with Israel is a given, as we have many common points and mutual areas of interest. This is not present in the Palestine relationship.  Furthermore, there is no other reason to be reticent; we will have to trust our diplomatic corps to play the balancing role, That is the need of the hour. There is no such thing as a perfect strategy – it is always give and take.
CONCLUSION
This does not include the many areas of trade and scientific commonality that we enjoy with Israel – which is only just one more added incentive for closer and more open relations with Israel. From my opinion, my point of view, it sounds slightly hypocritical to talk of our relations with The USA is one voice, and analyse the Israeli relationship along diametrically opposite tones. In this, I stand solidly with the Government praisers – well done, NaMo Government. You have taken a splendid step for the reasons outined above. That said, it has been a collective effort- it has to be said that all political parties have stood by this relationship for years and nurtured it actively.


Selected References : 

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Foreign Policy Under Narendra Modi Part – 2 : Rapport and NRIs…

Published June 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

It is said by many that one of the highpoints is the excellent personal rapport NaMo has with other leaders, and how it will benefit  FP. Maybe, maybe not; again, time will tell. As on date, the result is zero. Precisely zero, and hoopla, based on myth and an incomplete understanding and media hype. I do not deny benefits of a personal rapport; but let us not overstate it. Personal Rapport and Cultural Ties are only door openers, and are completely useless when the door is already open, In Foreign Policy, the $ and the Bullet {meaning brute power} reigns supreme.

Further, it is noteworthy that the same Prime Minister of India, before he became a Prime Minister, was targeted and branded {almost} by Western Nations as something less than nice. And now, the moment he becomes Prime Minister, the same nations’ leaders’, who previously branded Mr Narendra Modi without any proof whatsoever, flouting all international norms – which tantamounts to intervention in Indian affairs – are avowing personal connects. That tells the whole story; it is a mere strategic ploy given India’s status and purported / imagined role in their eyes; and Mr Narendra Modi’s mature and leader-like approach in moving on from the ugly past.

This mature and respect-worthy approach only shows NaMo as a true leader, a patriot, a thinking individual who understands what the nation needs, and ensures no baggage due to past issues. Nothing more and nothing less. He is the leader of the most ancient nation on the planet, one of the rising nations, strategically located, with good prospects and an internal business environment conducive to and aligned with western norms, practices, language, systems and processes : a nation that has justifiable claim to being a World Leader. Thus it is no surprise that the Western Nations would avow personal connects and want to forget the past – they too have nations to run, and wont want to harm their own self-interests. That is all there is to this personal connect stuff.  

Regarding cultural affinity and our penchant for idolizing non-Indians; we now have an American Ambassador whose ancestors hail from India {cannot say Indian-American : you cant have two mothers}; despite that, the American Policy is as hardline as ever, An unprecedented number of American Hindus are now in Government; no definable benefit has accrued to India in strategic terms, and that is a fact. High time we Indians realised that these cultural ties are useless in strategic terms. If these people loved India, or cared about India, they would not have surrendered their citizenship, which to me is like changing your mother, and adopting new parents. They are aliens, not Indians. No benefit can accrue from them – apart from cashing the cultural similarity and a shared past to get them to invest, which is what the NaMo strategy is all about.

Only an Indian Citizen is an Indian, Period. Further, Dr Manmohan Singh enjoyed an excellent rapport with President Obama; look where that lead us. Rapport doesn’t count where the decisions are taken on hardcore strategic parameters, sorry to say so! Neither does cultural affinity win over hardcore business and strategic decisions, be it in business or be it in Foreign Policy. These decisions are taken from a pure play strategic and ROI perspective, period.
Long term positive gains imply a major shift in policy for both the USA and China. Would anyone care to state how that shift will come about in both power dynamics and Trade? Please dont state people-to-people contacts; P2P contacts are the least important paradigm for consideration in appraising a Foreign Policy. If Modi has made a connect with American, Australians of Indian Ancestry, no benefit accrues to India which it would not get otherwise in trade; and none in Power. This community lacks the connections and the power levers in their nations to make even a tiny dent in their policies – as contemporary history proves. This makes P2P useless from a strategic perspective. On trade, interest rate differential and higher growth will ensure Money flows into India Modi or no Modi. Makes no difference whatsoever.

Modi’s FP successes will come; but not from USA or China; they are immaterial. They will come from Russia, Japan, Israel – and Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Burma, if he continues the good work started there. Please understand : I did not claim that the FP is a failure. I clearly state that it is too early to comment. That is one. Two, the sad part is that NaMo is being praised for steps that are ceremonial in nature, a facade as it were; while his real categorical moves lie ignored, which is a sad comment on our people and their analytical abilities, as well as the blind following habit which is now endemic to our nation.
He has re-crafted the entire relationship with Israel; is that good, or is that bad? I am yet to read a fully devoted article on this point anywhere, at least highlighted anywhere. This stands as a long overdue step, one which marks the policy as coming out of the diffident mode it was in earlier with regard to Israel, and a major rebalancing vis-a-vis the Middle East. We have no idea as yet what the repercussions or the benefits will be.

He has moved the relationship with Pakistan up several notches in terms of aggression; No more the diffident and hands-off approach. The new approach is blunt, in your face – and clear. We are for peace; just don’t push us. We know how to push back, and hard. Pakistan stands relegated, with complete disinterest in peace talks unless Pakistan stops talking with the Bullet, a hardline security paradigm in response to Pakistan, and a renewed world-view.

The way Russia has been handled is tremendous; he has pulled back Russia into the fold, signing major deals with Putin while jabbing pointless nonsense with the Americans who prefer more of “showmanship” than any real business or relationship with India. Indicate West, But turn East at its best. Well done, Sir! He has also upgraded India in the relationship with Russia as well as Asia. Our Neighbours are feeling for the first time an India that cares, and that is NaMo’s biggest FP achievement.

The Russians have withdrawn quite substantially from selling Arms to Pakistan in response to our negotiations with them – this the Americans haven’t done despite innumerable proofs of the misuse of their weapons against India by both the Indian Govt. as well as Americans themselves; can they {Russians} be blamed? We take arms from the Americans; have been for years! That is diplomacy and strategy. Rightly stated : reducing dependency.
The tragedy is we are actually celebrating his connect with a people who left India, and made another culture and nation their home; that is nothing to celebrate about. Had these people cared, they would have come back to India eventually, or at least kept their citizenship,  or have stayed in India; this they didn’t do : as I noted earlier : If these people loved India, or cared about India, they would not have surrendered their citizenship. The greatest tragedy is our continuing love affair with Non-Residents and PIOs : witness our news which carries long articles on spelling bee winners, pageant winners in detail, but cannot find the space for 2 lines on any number of truly Indian successes, by people living in India. {Kailash – ring a bell, anyone? When did we notice him? High time we stopped idolizing NRIs and PIOs, and looked for and supported Indian Success stories instead – any number of them to choose from, should we so desire}

These people, may I remind people here – are those that found other nations better than India as places to live. That is nothing praiseworthy, in my humble opinion. Our relationship with them is purely business : being from the same culture, they can find it far easier to do business here. Period. Nothing to celebrate. We have loads of Indian Examples to Celebrate; high time we learnt to have some pride in us as a nation.

In conclusion, let us all sit back and relax just a little, and rise above the hype and the hoopla. Let us not try and paint this Government as a messiah and a knight in shining armour stuff hyperbole which is unrealistic. Foreign Policy requires time, secrecy, commitment and action; not words. It is the follow-up to the visits that are far more important , and the preamble to the visits; the visits are merely media hype and showmanship. The work has all been done prior to the visits, by and large! Let us also not commit the cardinal sin of branding all actions by this Government as bad; most are good actions, well though-out. That does not mean they haven’t made mistakes; but give credit where credit is due!

Foreign Policy Under Narendra Modi – Part 1

Published May 31, 2015 by vishalvkale

A lot of euphoria and hero-worshipping is doing the rounds regarding our Foreign Policy under the new dispensation; in this article, I make an attempt to place things in the proper perspective, and highlight the problem areas as well as the successes in a relatively contained and short article. All is not hunky-dory; a lot remains to be revealed, and lot of it is pure hype which has no basis or substance whatsoever. We need to be able to differentiate the wheat from the chaff; this is what I have attempted.

               
A lot is being made about the improved image; In FP, image means almost nothing; it is relatively immaterial. FP is a matter of hardcore strategy, deliverance on words, hard power, and economic give and take. How a nation is perceived is of no relevance; what matters is its economic performance and security paradigms and direction. Thus, a better global image makes us feels better as Indians, but counts for precisely nothing in Diplomacy, and that is an absolute. If you sift away the hyperbole and focus on the hard facts, there are no achievements – precisely zero as on date in FP by this Government. FP changes take time to reveal themselves; let us wait and see.

To be frank, there is a decided lack of direction in the current foreign policy; this may be due to the churning that inevitably takes place when course is altered; that is true – but, as on date, from a strategic perspective it is all mixed up. India’s established course over the past 67 years has been fundamentally altered; some needed steps – long overdue – taken; but a lot of confusion prevails – and that is the way it should be in FP for a new Government with high expectations. What matters is the absence of gaffes, and presence of definable good steps. Only time will tell regarding FP, it is way too early.

As on date, there are demonstrably no achievements that would not have taken place otherwise {without NaMo}, apart from the hoopla among the Non-Resident population and the PIO population, who are immaterial insofaras strategy is concerned.  The direction is unclear as on date; remains to be seen what the net result is. NaMo has changed many a paradigm of our FP, and the effects in FP can only be observed over a long period of time. Personally, I am extremely uncomfortable with the FP as on date; at least insofaras USA, Israel and China are concerned.

There is no record of even one nation {non-European / Developing} that has benefited from a close association with the USA; quite the opposite. Add to that the recent revelations on arms aids, and the billions of dollars worth of Arms being given to Pakistan, which decidedly harms Indian interests,  and the differences on intelligence sharing- the net result seems negative. To top it all are the manifest differences on Economic and Trade issues where we are lined on diametrically opposite sides of the debate, added to the pressure tactics of the USA. It is still supplying arms to Pakistan – in fact, it has actually increased them, I think; the pressure game in various economic fields remains as it is- AMS, IPR et al. Sensitive technologies still not being given. No change – whatever happened would have happened anyway, had anyone else been in charge, and that is a fact. India and the USA are not going to be friends anytime soon!

USA is playing upto India not due to NaMo, but due to China, and that is also a fact; history repeats itself – read the period 1954-1960 and the Tibet imbroglio. The preceding silence to these elections was due to the elections themselves; everyone was hedging their bets. The global economy is in a major downswing, making India an attractive bet in terms of markets. China’s rise is making Unka Sammie mighty hot under the collar, and the Japanese look askance, In this scenario, regardless of who was in charge, insofaras USA, China are concerned, there has been no positive or negative impact – except hype and hyperbole, driven by an NRI/PIO population, and an indigenous population which for some strange reason idolizes these Non-Indians and Non-Residents Indians.

Recall the previous time India and China tried to come close. On China, I am afraid he may be wrong. I cannot forget the last time we went into Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai. The situation is the same; the precise same as in the Mid-50s, with USA gunning for China, wanting India on board. The Armed Forces in need of Weapons, and a general euphoria of Bhai-Bhai. The only saving grace is NaMo is far more pragmatic than other Indian leaders. Let us see; I have high hopes that he will handle it in an adroit fashion; judging from his China visit. But he as a leader can afford to play two roles- Security, and trade whereas we, as people, need to avoid euphoria in the case of China, and not hope for dramatic changes; they wont happen.

And ME-Israel? That is a sea-change : requires deep analysis for a thorough perspective. Let us all keep silent here; this is complicated and will require time to manifest. It seems a natural, an Israel with whom we have a deep scientific {Agriculture, Defence} and security commonality,  and one which has been courting India quietly all these years, as well as openly supporting it. But we have to factor in The Middle East, and that is what makes this matter complex. Silence is best on this; time will tell. My personal view is that the shift towards Israel was long overdue.

Nothing has changed fundamentally. Russia is still our only friend; and will remain our only friend in the near future. The USA, for all its pointless words, has not changed even one small sub-sub-paragraph of either its security policy or its economic policy, a few unimportant trinkets here and there apart. On a basic level, if you remove all trappings, as I observed above a lot remains unexplained. Only time will tell. The rest is all hoopla, and has no substance whatsoever. Rather than celebrate and jump for joy, let us not create a hype and hoopla, and give this Government time, as at long last, there is an aggressive government in FP, one which is taking long-overdue decisions, one of which I alluded to above.

As regards money and investments- given the Global Scenario, you cant expect anything else. Will it actually happen? Extremely doubtful. Project implementation has to pick up, and that requires police, political and administrative reform. Land Bill etc wont change one single iota of the on-ground reality. What matters is how we develop our own internal capabilities; if that is in line, the money and the investments will come.