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Posted at: Jan 15, 2018, 12:58 AM; last updated: Jan 15, 2018, 12:58 AM (IST)

Netanyahu comes to Delhi

An alliance of common antipathy
Netanyahu comes to Delhi

Once, the Indian passport barred its holder from travelling to South Africa and Israel. South Africa reversed its status as a global pariah by turning its back on apartheid but Israel was forced to claw its way into the world mainstream by playing on its strengths. Though left and Muslim organisations have geared up to provide token opposition to the six-day visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it has become obvious that the protest has no edge. For, Israel has proved its usefulness in meeting niche requirements for the Indian security establishment across regimes of all ideological hues. Ever since PV Narasimha Rao opened diplomatic relations with Israel, Tel Aviv has frequently bailed out India from difficult situations, notably during the Kargil war and in Jammu & Kashmir.  

However, Israel is extra special for the BJP government because both view the Muslim from an antagonistic lens. This mutual antipathy to a common enemy has made the pro-Hindu BJP instrumental in forging even closer ties with Israel. PM Modi brushed off conventional inhibitions about visiting Israel, unthinkable with all previous regimes. His political reflexes were in tune with the rest of the world: Moscow recently opened its doors to Netanhayu while Israel and Saudi Arabia exchange intelligence about Iran, their common foe. India can hardly hope for a less demanding partner than Israel — New Delhi accounts for about half of the total Israeli exports of arms and equipment. 

The dark side of this relationship is in the eagerness of BJP zealots to emulate Israel’s heavy-handed approach to militancy. As India’s vote at the UN against Israel on the issue of Jerusalem demonstrated, this partnership has its limits. Otherwise, PM Modi wouldn’t have visited Arab countries before embarking for Israel. The world is too complex to lend itself to easy takeaways. Cooperation with Israel does beef up the Indian security establishment but the lesson from its unending battle against violence is also salutary: troubles don’t go away just because you have the most lethal equipment in town. The staid across-the-table conversation still remains the best antidote to violence.

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