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.
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!
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.
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.
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