Arc of India’s Ties with Israel

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Why in News?

  • The Islamist organisation, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, recently launched one of the most brazen attacks against Israelsince the Jewish state was founded(in 1948).
  • The India PM expressed outrage, referring the event as terrorist attack, and voiced solidarity with Israel.

 

Development of India-Israel-Palestine Relations in Post Independence Years

  • Rejection of Two-Nation Solution and Support for Palestine Cause
    • India’s political attitude towards Israel was set quite firmly shortly after independence in 1947.
    • The first PM of India Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi gave support to the Palestinian cause and rejected the idea of two nations based on religion.
    • While they had sympathy for the Jews, both were of the view that any State based on religious exclusivity could not sustain on moral and political grounds. This was in line with their opposition to the partition of India.
  • Vote Against Israel at the UN
    • India’s position about Palestine was also guided by the general consensus in the Arab world, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the United Nations.
    • When the partition of Palestine plan was put to vote at the UN, India voted against, along with the Arab countries.
    • When Israel applied for admission to the UN, India again voted against.
  • Recognition of Isarel as a Nation
    • India recognised Israel on September 17, 1950, after two Muslim-majority countries, Turkey and Iran, did so.
    • In 1953, Israel was allowed to open a consulate in Mumbai, but no diplomatic presence was granted in New Delhi.
  • Engagement with Palestine Leadership Under Yasser Arafat
    • In the late 1960s and early 70s, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) emerged as the representative of the people of Palestine under Yasser Arafat.
    • India developed its engagement with the largest political grouping under PLO, Al Fatah.
  • Recognition of PLO as the Legitimate Representation of Palestinian People
    • On January 10, 1975, India recognised PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and permitted it an independent office at New Delhi.
    • While India was one of the last non-Muslim states to recognise Israel, it became the first non-Arab state to recognise the PLO.

 

India-Israel-Palestine Relations Under Prime Ministers Rajiv and Indira Gandhi

  • Continued Support for Palestinian Struggle
    • In 1980, when Indira Gandhi returned to power with a thumping majority, she continued her support to the Palestinian struggle.
    • India upgraded the PLO office to an embassy level and provided with all diplomatic immunities and privileges.
  • Strong Solidarity for Palestine Struggle at NAM Summit in Delhi: The relationship between India and Palestine further strengthened when the NAM summit took place in India (1983), with a strong statement of solidarity for Palestine. 
  • Palestine Policy Under PM Rajiv Gandhi
    • PM Rajiv Gandhi continued with India’s approach towards Palestine throughout the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) in December 1987 in Gaza and West Bank.
    • Due to the ‘iron fist’ policies of Israel, India maintained its steadfast support to Palestine.

 

Ground Shift in India-Israel-Palestine Relations

  • Criticism of India’s Palestine Policy Within India
    • By this time, there were critics of New Delhi’s Palestine policy and its outright support to the Arab world within India.
    • The Arab countries’ neutral position during the 1962 India-China war and their support to Pakistan during the 1965 and 1971 wars did not go down well with many, including the primary opposition at that time (BJP).
    • On the other hand, Israel helped India with arms and ammunition in the 1962 and 1965 wars.
  • Changing Geopolitics in the West Asia: Things changed in West Asia when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. The PLO lost its political leverage on account of its support to Saddam Hussain. Around that time, the Soviet Union disintegrated.
  • Establishment of Full Diplomatic Relations with Israel
    • These developments prompted India to make drastic changes in its policy towards West Asia.
    • It established full diplomatic relations with Israel in January 1992, days after the Chinese established diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv.
    • The end of the Cold War weakened the NAM and reduced the ideological hostility towards Israel.
    • The emergence of the BJP as a powerful force in Indian politics in early 1990s also removed some hesitations about Israel.

 

Aftermath of the Establishment of Full India-Israel Diplomatic Relations

  • Palestinian President’s India Visit
    • On January 19-20, 1992, Palestinian President Arafat paid an official visit to India.
    • During his meeting with PM P V Narsimha Rao, he was told that India’s establishment of a diplomatic relationship with Israel would be helpful for the Palestinian cause.
    • India could exert influence on Israel only if it had an ambassador in Tel Aviv and Arafat came on board.
  • Israel’s Military Assistance to India During Kargil War
    • The establishing of full diplomatic ties with Israel was extremely helpful during the Kargil conflict in 1999.
    • The Indian Air Force desperately needed precision target bombs as Pakistani intruders were hiding in caves and bunkers atop mountains in Kargil.
    • The IAF reached out to their Israeli counterparts, who wasted no time.
    • Israel dug into their emergency stockpiles and shipped the weapons to India, which proved to be decisive in the hour of need.
  • High Level Official Visits from India to Israel
    • After Kargil war, the Vajpayee government sent the then foreign minister for the first bilateral visit in 2000.
    • Subsequently, home minister visited Israel in the summer of 2000, followed by more high-profile visits.

 

India-Israel Relations Under the Current Indian Leadership

  • Much More Visible Relationship
    • After the PM Modi came to power, there has been much more visibility to the India-Israel relationship.
    • During Modi’s visit to Israel in 2017 — the first Prime Ministerial visithe skipped the customary stop at Palestine, which was the norm with previous ministerial visits.
  • A Balanced Foreign Policy
    • The government had been quite careful about setting up Israel’s visit.
    • Foreign Ministry made sure that the PM visited Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, UAE all regional rivals of Israel between 2014 and 2017, before the trip to Israel. 
    • In the last decade or so, ties have deepened in security, defence, and connectivity with Israel, but at the same time India has partners in West Asia — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Iran.
    • The Indian strategic approach to engage with all sides in the complex West Asian region is born out of necessity.
    • There are 90 lakh-strong Indian community in the region and more than 50% of India’s energy imports are sourced from West Asia.
  • A Complete Dehyphenation of India-Israel-Palestine Ties
    • India hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in May 2017. In all public pronouncements, foreign ministry officials-maintained India’s position on its support towards the Palestinian cause.
    • The PM later visited Palestine in February 2018, but did not visit Israel and it achieved a complete dehyphenation of the ties.

 

Conclusion

  • A series of horrifying surprise attacks on Israel over the weekend puts India in a diplomatic tight spot.
  • This is because the current hostility tests the Abraham Accords and the efforts towards rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, which held the promise of reshaping age-old fault-lines in the Middle East.
  • India was hoping to reap the dividends of the newfound peace in the region.

 


Q1) What is HAMAS?

Hamas has a membership of between 20,000 and 25,000, according to the U.S. government, and was founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It rejects Israel's right to exist and is dedicated instead to the creation of a Palestinian country in the region.

The group has both socio-political and military functions and receives crucial support and weapons from Iran. It is one of several organisations vying for influence over Palestinians in the decadeslong conflict over their future since the modern state of Israel was created in what had been Mandatory Palestine.

 

Q2) What is the I2U2 initiative?

The I2U2 initiative is a new grouping of India, Israel, USA and UAE. In the grouping’s name, ‘I2’ stands for India and Israel, whereas ‘U2’ stands for USA and the UAE. This is a great achievement which tells the geopolitical changes that happen in the region. This will not only revitalise and re-energize the system of alliances and partnerships around the world, but also stitch together partnerships that did not exist previously or were not utilised to their full extent.


Source: The Indian Express