Prime Minister Narendra Modi created history when he stepped into Ramallah on Saturday by becoming the first Indian prime minister to do so. Moreover, he was flown in by a Jordanian chopper escorted by two Israeli choppers. That says a lot.
A clever balancing act
Either side of the West Bank needs peace and these are no good times for the region. The United States waded into the region yet another time recently treating the land as a real estate piece rather than understanding the sensitivities involved. But then one cannot expect either Trump or his son-in-law Jared Kushner to do any better having only the real estate background.
For years, India has been trading with Israel and has diplomatic relations with the country. Israel is the third largest weapons supplier to India after the US and Russia. Credit should go to Narendra Modi for de-hyphenating the equation now as the world has changed a lot and friendships are no more kept not for the sake of history alone. Dealings between countries are based on economics as well as geo-political realities.
An enemy’s enemy may be a friend, but a friend’s enemy need not be one in a multi-polar world. There is a convergence of interests between the countries. Israel manufactures and exports a large number of very sophisticated weapons systems.
Last year, its weapons exports hit $6.5 billion. On his recent visit, Netanyahu managed to revive a possible deal for anti-tank missiles worth $500 million. Earlier, the Israeli offer had been shelved as India was considering developing and building the missiles locally. Israel’s experience and expertise in arid area farming is highly relevant to Indian conditions.
It has also offered to train Indian security forces in anti-terrorist operations. While everyone knows that the road to Washington passes through Tel Aviv, even Saudi Arabia is aiming to please the United States by cozying up to Tel Aviv. Trump’s Iran conundrum also is a welcome note for the Saud’s and the Israeli’s. So, it is always in India’s interests to be friends with Israel.
Yet, by de-hyphenating the Israel-Palestine issue, India has only gained in stature. Palestine is also grateful to India for joining the majority in the UN vote against the Trump administration’s move on Jerusalem. India’s recent Doklam stand-off with China for the sake of a friend and the present Palestine visit by the Prime Minister only help India gain in stature.
Similarly, its friendship with Iran despite, Trump’s ratcheting. Diplomacy is all about preventing hostile powers from coming together and entering into defensive alliances to enhance security. India is doing well on both the counts.