Changing global realities

Importance of “strategic relationship” with Israel

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warm hug picture with 11-year-old boy Heltzberg Moshe in Jerusalem symbolically signifies India Israel new ‘strategic- relationship with a human touch. Moshe’s Jewish parents in Mumbai were killed during the Pakistan-sponsored 26/11 terror attack in India’s commercial capital. Having survived miraculously the terror attack, Moshe, then just two years old, thereafter traveled with his grandparents to Afula where he now lives.

More than the warmth and courtesies extended to our Prime Minister by Israeli leaders and people, young Moshe holds out a mirror of the 26/11 bloody chapter of Indian history and related geopolitical realities of Pakistan and China woven around it. Indian developments since Independence remind us of the bitter truth that we as a people are poor learners of history.

Small wonder that India’s has been a saga of tragic stories from the Oct 1947-48 Pakistani tribal invasion in Kashmir to the 1962 Chinese betrayal of the Panchsheel principle in NEFA to Beijing’s suppression of Tibetans and their mass exodus from their beloved country to Pak-sponsored Mumbai terror strikes and beyond. We have had to pay a heavy price for being a ‘soft state’. It is time we come out of this ‘goody goody’ mindset if we mean to take India forward.

Narendra Modi has visited 60 countries in three years of premiership. But for the first time he has given a definite swing to the conduct of India’s diplomacy by breaking the old mental barriers of foreign policy in tune with our national interest. He has walked on a new path to reach out to Tel Aviv, which the old political stalwarts dared not tread. Here is the Prime Minister’s pragmatic foreign policy at its best. A major achievement of this visit is the de-hyphenation of India’s relations with Israel and Palestine. This has been criticized in India as abandoning the Palestinian case. But the evidence on the ground suggests otherwise. India’s traditional commitment to the Palestinian cause remains undiluted. And rightfully so, India must honour this age-old commitment.

Looking around the neighborhood and changing global realities we cannot ignore the security implications of changing trends in the world. What matters today is the right perspective that takes into account all facets of internal and external threats so that the country could evolve a credible medium and long term views of its goals and objectives in its pursuit of strategic security and economic policies.

Narendra Modi’s three-day trip to Tel Aviv was a major departure from status quo pursuit of India’s foreign policy during the past 70 years. Of course, P. V. Narasimha Rao gets the credit for establishing diplomatic ties with Israel 25 yeas ago. Still, South Block was invariably extra cautious in striking a balance act between Israel and the Arab world, especially with regard to Palestine. Narendra Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to go to Tel Aviv without visiting Palestine while broadly sticking to the same policy. He has thereby given a powerful signal to the global community of India’s special relationship with the Jewish state that has survived amidst a hostile atmosphere of the oil-rich West Asian countries. How could Israel do it has often tickled the curiosity of several thinking Indians both within the establishment and outside of it.

The Jewish brains are known for their innovative technical and scientific spirit and skills. They have made their water-starved arid land bloom with new water techniques in the farm and horticulture sector. They have quenched the thirst of the majority of people by the desalination technology of the seawater. They have evolved a unique military strategy with the backup of very powerful weaponry system on the land, in the air and the sea. Small wonder that no enemy state encircling dare touch it, whatever might be its wealth and military muscle.

Prime Minister Modi has been well focused in correcting some of the basic weaknesses India suffered for decades in critical areas of security, water and agriculture. He has signed 17 wide-ranging MOUs with the Israeli government. These include industrial R&D and technological innovation, drinking water, sanitation, water conservation, energy, agriculture, space and atomic cooperation, GEO-LEO optical links. Tel Aviv will also help New Delhi to conserve water and clean up the Ganga.

To boost bi-lateral trade from $5 billion to $20 billion in five years, Indian and Israeli companies have signed strategic pacts worth $4.3 billion. Even $40 million innovation fund has been set up, the area where India lags behind. In fact, we ought to make special efforts to create congenial professional working atmosphere to get the best out of India’s indigenous talent.

There is too much of political interference in every sphere of public life. Will Prime Minister Modi give a serious thought to this matter, if he means to learn from the Israeli and Western success story? My point is simple: if the Indians overseas could become a big hit, why can’t they be a success in their own land? The answer is simple: the country continues to suffer from politico-bureaucratic control mechanism, which kills the people’s innovative skills and initiatives.

Be that as it may. The catch phrase for Modi, as Indian Ambassador to Israel Pawan Kapoor put it, was defence development and “strategic partnership” in areas of innovation, science, technology and space. While the relationship in these fields have already been upswing for the past several years, the new deals and commercial agreements are set to ramp up and upgrade the already strong bi-lateral ties.

The Modi regime has worked quietly in giving twists and turns to Indian diplomacy, keeping in view the need for bridging India’s gaps in defense and security needs. As it is, India is faced with a barbaric face of Pak-sponsored militancy in J&K and beyond, for which this country has to find new answers. Tel Aviv has the expertise and target-based technology, which can do wonders in curbing the on-going menace of terrorism from across the border.

Viewed in a larger framework, the existing Indian system has to be jolted out of its business-as-usual syndrome. We have to look at our security needs afresh against the backdrop of the changing regional and global environment, especially in the light of the growing Beijing-Islamabad axis and China’s hostile postures at the borders and the Indian Ocean. We have also to constantly keep in mind the tactics and strategies being adopted by the Islamic fundamentalist groups as part of Pakistan’s gameplan.

Our strategic doctrine vis-à-vis Pakistan and China needs drastic revision. To think that any future conflict would be mere extrapolation of our past experience could be wrong. A long-term perspective demands resilient diplomacy backed up by sound economy and the ability of our administrative structure and political processes to command loyalty of the people belonging to all sections of society, Muslims included.

Ironically, China today talks about Panchsheel, forgetting that it killed this principle not only on the question of Tibetan autonomy but also by its 1962 conflict. The problem with the Indian leadership has been it has invariably overlooked certain harsh facts of Chinese history and its expansionist policies whenever it happens to be strong.

Prime Minister Modi has rightly picked up the threads and made serious efforts to put the country’s defence in order. In this context, what is needed, is a broad based national institutions, which should draw the best available talent and expertise in specified areas of foreign policy, geopolitics, economics and security priorities with the objective of evolving an integrated foreign policy within the framework of global realities. The country can no longer afford to go by ad hoc reaction of its leaders who, as past experience shows, often get influenced by short-term political considerations.

Besides, our thinking on security must not be trapped in rigidity. It needs to change with the changing security needs.

In his book, “The Open Society and its Enemies”, Paul Popper writes:
“The future depends on ourselves and we do not depend on any historical necessity”
It is indeed for us what we want ourselves to be, keeping in view the nation’s march forward. There are no shortcuts to the country’s greatness and our march forward mainly depends on the political will of our leaders at the helm. The CPM’s assertion that “the BJP led government’s alliance with Israel is a reflection of its pro-imperialist, Hindutva-oriented foreign policy” is totally misplaced. We know the CPM mind-set: What PM Modi has done is in India’s national security interest, which has to be the primary responsibility of any democratic government.

Israel is a shining example of how a nation could keep its flag high even in a highly hostile neighbourhood – the sort of unfriendly atmosphere we are faced with vis-à-vis Pakistan and China. Apparently, South Block has to correctly measure China’s real intentions and Pakistan’s dubious goal of grabbing Jammu & Kashmir by hook or by crook. Here I wish to say in all humility that in today’s global complexities and sophisticated technological needs for our defence and our economic strength, New Delhi needs Tel Aviv more than what Israel seeks from India as a ‘Dost’.

Changing global realities

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