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Relationship in the open

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: October 1, 2014
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/edit/relationship-in-the-open.html

India needn’t be defensive on ties with Israel

 One of the lesser publicised meetings that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had during his visit to the United States was with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York before he left for Washington, DC, to meet US President Barack Obama. Perhaps the meeting was deliberately played down or it was simply just that in the whirl of various engagements that Mr Modi was deep into, the event got nearly buried. Whatever the reason may be, nothing detracts from the fact that India-Israel relations, especially strong since the last two decades, are poised to come out of the closet with Mr Modi having taking charge in New Delhi. For far too long, India has been coy about its close ties with Israel, keeping in mind the sensitivities of many Muslim countries with whom New Delhi enjoys sound relations. But things have changed a lot and this linear diplomatic approach no longer holds good. Several old-time ‘enemies' of Israel, such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, are no longer in violent confrontation with the existence of the Jewish nation. If they have learned to live with Israel — just as Israel has learned to live with them — there is no reason why India should remain on the defensive. In any case, it is not as if by keeping wraps on ties with Israel, India has managed to win over the Muslim world. On the contrary, New Delhi continues to have at best tentative relations with many of the Islamic nations despite its efforts to bring warmth. It must also be remembered that Israel has always been by India's side whenever the latter faced a tricky situation on global platforms, and has often helped it covertly in times of crisis. The conventional template had been that any open engagement with Israel should best be avoided; and if it became necessary, it must be instantly ‘balanced' with a similar outreach to the ‘rest' — meaning the Muslim world. There has been a significant departure this time: While Mr Modi met his Israeli counterpart, he could not meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas because the itinerary of the two leaders did not match.

Mr Netanyahu is said to have briefed the Indian Prime Minister about the West Asia crisis, with emphasis on the Gaza situation, and Israel's conflict with Iran. The agenda of the meeting went beyond the usual exchange of ideas —  the latest drip irrigation technologies, for instance, or defence cooperation — between the two countries. Mr Netanyahu has also extended an invitation to Mr Modi to visit Israel — and the Indian Prime Minister has taken “note” of it. It will be interesting to see if Mr Modi accepts the invite because, if he does, it will be a landmark decision. As of now, he will be keen to harness for India the enormous clout that the Jewish community and Israel have among lawmakers in the US. The Indian Prime Minister's interaction with an influential Jewish group in New York was an effort in that direction.
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