, by DR. FATIMA SHAHNAZ
DR. FATIMA SHAHNAZ analyses the growing honeymoon between India and US proxy state Israel, and avers that this dangerous liaison bodes ill for our time-honoured policies of non-alignment and principled support to the Palestinian cause.
In this Section
The two persons responsible for introducing economic reforms in 1991 to liberalize the Indian economy were the current Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Harvard-educated Finance Minister Chidambaram. This year, 2007, India and Israel celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of their bilateral relations. While this phase marks a significant shift in India’s foreign and trade policies, relations with Israel (albeit low-profile) pre-date this period, going back to the 1970s when Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan visited India, right through the BJP Government. Since then, the defence and military industrial contracts between the two nations have accelerated. The latest joint venture between India and Israel to develop an advanced range surface-to-air missile capable of detecting and destroying aircraft, missiles and spy planes is to the tune of $2.5 billion.
The project, approved by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Manmohan Singh himself, was contracted between the Defence Research and Development Organisation and Israel Aerospace Industries. Indo-Israeli military relations have progressed for years, with Israel now becoming India’s second largest arms supplier (Russia still first). The number of defence and military delegations between the two countries has also risen. Bilateral civilian trade between them touched 2.7 billion dollars in 2006, according to David Danieli, Ambassador of Israel to New Delhi.
As Israel eyes the vast Indian market, 100 Israeli companies have spread across India with joint ventures and research and development centres in various sectors. Recent technology deals between Israel and India have taken place in Andhra Pradesh Three medical centres are to be set up in West Bengal in a joint venture with Ambuja Realty for Rs.1,000 crores, with one centre in Kolkata and another in Siliguri. The Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva, already has a strong presence in India. Ambassador Danieli declared that the booming Indian economy had influenced global business, and that "the business relations between the two countries are steadily progressing. We want a larger share in the fast growing Indian economy."
AREAS OF MUTUAL COOPERATION
Cooperation between the two nations has also increased in the areas of civil aviation, railways, shipping and road safety. On March 19-22, Israel’s Deputy Prime minister Shaul Mofaz visited India, meeting with the Indian Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways TR Baalu, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel. Accompanied by a senior delegation from the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety, (in charge of Israeli Sea, Airports, Railways and Roads) Mofaz also called on External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Other meetings with the Israeli Minister included the Director and members of FICCI, CII plus prominent Indian business representatives.
The upcoming New Delhi Airport Terminal was also discussed with the GMR group. The Israeli Minister prioritised the development of national infrastructure, particularly in key areas such as ports, railways, roads, airports, in both countries. Mofaz invited leading Indian firms to participate in tenders for large infrastructure projects in Israel. Both parties agreed on intensifying cooperation both at the Government and business levels, through the formation of Joint Working Groups, mutual study programmes, technology-sharing and other projects.
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
In September India will launch an Israeli satellite with a ‘top secret’ payload. Shrouded in secrecy, it is nonetheless known that the mission by ISRO’s four-stage Polar Satellite Launch vehicle (PSLV) will carry an Israeli spy satellite called TechSar, which weighs approximately 260 kg. The lift-off will be from the space centre at Sriharikota. While this mission marks a milestone in Indo-Israeli collaboration, the Left Parties in the Congress coalition have already voiced opposition. The controversy highlights the dichotomy within India on the growing Indo-Israeli ties, which have set alarm bells ringing not merely among pro-Palestinian Muslims, but across the board both within the Indian political apparatus and civil society.
The reasons for the caution are obvious, based on Israel’s close ties with the United States, and as the American ‘proxy,’ or satellite state. But zealots of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal argue in favour of this as a paradigm-shift in Indian policymaking, and based on ‘realpolitik,’ self-interest, or marketing and globalisation. The same Free Marketeers argue that Gandhian principles rooted in the Mahatma’s credo that one of the deadly sins was "politics without principles" is irrelevant and obsolete.
The neo-liberals also spout U.S. State Secretary Condy Rice’s mantra that NAM is a moribund ideology best swept away with the Cold War. Israel’s Orwellian policies regarding its occupation of Palestine are also swept under the rug (although India was formerly one of the staunchest defenders of Palestinians) based on India’s own battle against imperialism. But all that seems barely significant under the neo-conservative administration in Washington, manipulated by a powerful Zionist lobby (and beleaguered by espionage scandals for Israel).
Another area where future ‘conflicts of interest’ could arise between the two nations would concern Iran. With growing energy needs and the gas pipeline project with Iran, India may eventually resent Israel as Washington’s regional ‘policeman,’ as the U.S. Ambassador in New Delhi, David Mulford, has already warned India that ties with Iran will be "closely watched". Moreover, Israel, which sees Iran as a threat, is resolutely promoting a war-drive and ‘regime change’ in Tehran.
Nonetheless, in his farewell letter to Indians before his term here ended, the Israeli ambassador in Delhi defined the "amicable relations between our two countries [which] are here to stay". These relations were described as "multifaceted interactions with all India’s sectors and many of you personally."
One of the "facets" of the full-blown relationship is on counter-terrorism. Israel’s modus operandi and techniques in tackling the Palestinian "insurgency" (which is in reality a Palestinian resistance movement against Israeli occupation) will be duplicated in Kashmir, against a "Muslim" and "Pakistan-sponsored" militancy in the Himalayan state. This may explain much of the Indian Government’s biased actions or Indian media propaganda relentlessly scapegoating Muslims in every terrorist attack. The anti-Muslim Israeli (and British-American) propaganda machinery is working in overdrive mode in India, allied to Hindutva forces. Worse, it stokes the fires of communalism.
Recently, after an Indian warship visited Israel, a seven-member Israeli delegation under Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Major Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, visited Jammu and Kashmir to discuss anti-militancy operations in the region. The Israeli delegation advised the Indian army, confronting infiltrators from Pakistan across the Line of Control (LoC) to fence the 720-km-long LoC with Pakistan with a barbed wire fence. This method recalls Israel’s illegal fence through Palestinian territories.
Further, this growing bilateral cooperation between Tel Aviv and New Delhi in the areas of defence and counter-terrorism fuels double-standards in India regarding Indo-Israeli relations: Israel’s approach to the Palestinian movement is not approved of in all sectors of Indian society; nor are Israel’s effort to see similarities between the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and the situation in Kashmir considered an appropriate comparison in New Delhi.
US-ISRAELI EXPANSIONISM IN N-E INDIA
While Israel may exploit an anti-Islamic complicity with the BJP, RSS or Hindutva forces, this has proven to be a delusionary policy that already threatens to fly in the face of the Jewish state. Anti-Muslim propagandists have floated rumours demonizing the mythical ‘Muslim hand’ behind terrorist threats in the North East of India, particularly after the twin bomb-blasts last year in Dimapur, commercial capital of Nagaland; also in Assam (for which the non-Muslim outfits ULFA and NDFB later claimed responsibility). While a skilfully crafted anti-Muslim propaganda has scapegoated Muslims, the U.S. seeks a geo-political foothold in the region. Israel, the U.S. ally, has launched a drive identifying tribes in Mizoram and Manipur as "Jews".
An Israeli group based in Aizawl and called the Chhinlung People’s Convention, composed of 25 million people with its own flag, strives to establish a "New Jerusalem" in the North East. As Jewish rabbis flood Mizoram and Manipur to integrate their new-found Jewish brethren in the diaspora of Jewish tribes of Israel (fulfilling Biblical prophecies), the Hindutva ‘patriots’ are already sounding the alarm signal: What is this "New Jerusalem" based on the Torah (Old Testament) that states "there shall be one holy land in the west and one in the east."
However, rather than lose a lucrative morsel of U.S.-Israeli marketing, the extremist Hindu factions continue to browbeat the native Muslim scapegoat with fictions of Muslim terrorism, while in practice they are complicitous in parcelling out the Indian homeland to Israel. Now, with Israeli infiltration at all levels, including the agricultural sector, supernatural biblical prophecies become a daily Indian reality.
MIRAGES IN THE DESERT
Among its other projects, Israel has launched an initiative to boost crop productivity in the north-eastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. This was proposed by Danieli with Israel’s expertise in agriculture and water management. The propaganda campaign tallied with technology when the ambassador delivered a lecture on "Political and security challenges for Israel in [the] West Asian region" at the Yuva Vikas Kedra in Guwahati. A cultural mission fostering ‘bonhomie’ between the two nations was held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on May 15, 2007,with the Indian side headed by Secretary (East) N. Ravi, Ministry of External Affairs.
A two-week course enhancing agricultural cooperation with India was conducted by an Israeli expert Gad Elharar in collaboration with the Water Technology Centre and IARI, India. The latest concepts and technologies associated with irrigation systems including Fertigation leading to higher production and increase in input use efficiency were demonstrated. Cooperation of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MASHAV, initiated the course.
With this picture-postcard perfect prognosis of Indo-Israeli economics, sceptics would have to read the fine print to see looming roadblocks or a lopsided message. One of the gross setbacks in the Indo-Israeli ‘romance’ is the absence of investments in the power sector, which is the most pressing of India’s infrastructural needs. With power-shortages and disrupted or non-existent service at times, or poor technical performance and theft, there are likely to be shortfalls which would cost the ventures a lot. According to Navroz K. Dubash and D. Narasimha Rao, these are "symptoms of an underlying malady, a governance failure at the heart of the electricity sector." Privatisation and a liberal economy have failed to remedy the "malady" of India.
Professor Edward Said once wrote that Israel is still an imperial colony. As the Indian technocracy forges into the millennium the underlying question is whether it will follow Israel’s pattern, becoming an indentured ‘client state’ of the United States? However, Indian Government mouthpieces produce a valid argument: If Saudi Arabia is holding meetings with Israel, and other Muslim-Arab nations (including our neighbour) are Krazy-glued to Washington, in this Orwellian world of doublespeak why, indeed, should India not cash in on the spoils?