India's Duplicity in the Middle East
by Sadu Nanjundiah
November 20, 2003

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"We fully support Palestinian cause," India's Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee said on his recent visit to Syria. But what is the evidence for that, other than pro-forma statements by some of India's leaders and bureaucrats? None whatsoever since the coming to power of the right-wing Hindu nationalists in India. Even earlier Congress party administrations, and other coalitions that held power briefly in India, had also started warming up to Israel. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in India has made close ties with Israel the linchpin of its foreign policy despite protestations from its leaders to the contrary. It might seem reassuring to hear Prime Minister Vajpayee himself stating that the situation in this (i.e. Middle East) region was a "matter of great concern."  He is reported to have told President Assad of Syria that India was "fully" with the Palestinian cause. India, the Prime Minister said, had consistently called for "a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in West Asia (as the "Middle East" looks to people who are not Euro- or American-centric) based on the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions" and the "land for peace" formula. But just a few months ago, India hosted Israel's bloody-minded leader Ariel Sharon to a state visit. This war criminal was even allowed to pay homage at the memorial erected for India's greatest apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi. Even yet, Mr. Vajpayee said that Sharon had been told that there had been no change in India's position seeking a "quick Israeli withdrawal" from Palestinian cities and other "occupied" territories.  He went farther and spoke specifically about ending the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights.

But these are just empty words, with absolutely no concrete demonstration of any meaningful support for the beleaguered and oppressed Palestinian people, surviving somehow against tremendous odds in the Israeli occupied territories.

On the other hand, the Indian government has established very close ties with the Israeli defense establishment over the last few years. Both countries have exchanged business and government delegations with a view to expanding trade between them. This only gives a boost to the Israeli apartheid regime just as its economy is in a slump thanks to the intifada. During white racist rule in South Africa, India took the lead internationally in isolating the hated apartheid governments there over four decades. It shunned any links with the brutal regime from the very inception. The leaders of South Africa’s freedom struggle, from Nelson Mandela to Thabo Mbeki, have acknowledged India’s support to their long and bitter struggle for justice.  But now when an equally repugnant Zionist regime in Israel oppresses the native people of Palestine with unprecedented savagery, what does the government of India do? It accords Israel full diplomatic recognition, establishes commercial and military links with it and does nothing to oppose or alleviate the appalling suffering of the Palestinian people other than offering sham sympathy periodically. Instead of spearheading a worldwide boycott of the heinous Sharon government, it provides succor to Israel reeling under an economic downturn.

Here are a few examples of the reality of growing Indo-Israeli ties in recent years:

July 17, 2001 – India and Israel sign a $ 2 billion arms deal to boost cooperation in weapons systems and technology. The agreement was signed between the Israeli Aircraft Industry and a visiting Indian defence delegation. It would also provide for the supply of sophisticated Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles.

January 8, 2002 – Visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres backed India in its dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. Both countries were fighting the same “terrorism”.

January 22, 2002 – India and Israel sign a memorandum of understanding to promote bilateral trade in electronics and information technology.

September 13, 2002 – During Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to the U.S, Jewish-American leaders reminded him that India, Israel and the U.S shared much in common – “their consciousness of the rights of minorities, family values and their concern over terrorism.” The Prime Minister thanked the Jewish-American leaders for contributing to the promotion of Indo-U.S relations.

January 20, 2003 - India and Israel will jointly market, “in right earnest”, the Adanced Light Helicopter manufactured by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

May 9, 2003 – The principal adviser to Prime Minister Vajpayee, Brajesh Mishra, addressing the American Jewish Community annual dinner in Washington, said an alliance between India and Israel would have “political will and moral authority to take bold decisions in extreme cases of terrorist provocation without being distracted by diversionary arguments like ‘root causes’.”

September 9, 2003 – India and Israel decide to enhance cooperation in agriculture, expand strategic ties and boost bilateral trade from the present $ 1.3 billion, including exploring avenues of collaboration in space, micro-satellite technology and other frontier areas.At the same time, U.S State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says, “We are always glad when friends make friends with each other and work together.” Commenting on Israel Prime Minister Sharon’s impending visit to India he added, “I am sure they have common interests as well.”

September 11, 2003 – Indian and Israeli industrial delegations will meet alternatively in the two countries annually, Confederation of Indian Industries President Anand Mahindra said while visiting Israel. He added, India’s burgeoning telecommunications infrastructure provided and ideal market for Israeli technology.  A day earlier, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Yosef Lapid said visiting India that India and Israel should form a triangular axis with the U.S to counter the “scourge of international terrorism.”

October 10, 2003 – Israel signed a $ 1 billion agreement with India to fit its vaunted Phalcon early-warning radar system to Russian Ilyushin-76 aircraft purchased by India. The U.S lifted its objections to the sale of the Phalcon to India. Defence analysts say the system will give India a greater edge in conventional weaponry over its regional rivals, Pakistan and China.

No longer does the Indian government consider Zionism to be a form of racism. India’s rulers need to be reminded what Zionism means to the Palestinian people -- an intense Jewish chauvinism and colonial domination of the non-Jewish people of Palestine. It has led to the oppression, ironically, of a mostly Semitic Palestinian people who, incidentally, had nothing to do with the enormous suffering inflicted on the Jews of Europe. Zionism proclaims to be a movement of a strong and proud people but in reality its ideology actually blames Jews for their past oppression in Europe, as inevitable and impossible to overcome except with a separate country. Thus the raison d’etre for the Zionist state of Israel. Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, said of anti-Semitism (meaning the hateful and violent discrimination directed against Jews), “It is an understandable reaction if Germany doesn’t want disorders in her stomach.” The practice of Zionism has led to the colonization of the Palestinian people and to the establishment of a powerful, white, ally of the white powers of North America and Europe in the form of Israel. It is like a cat’s paw set in the midst of an “unreliable” but economically critical region of the world that happens to be dominated (unfortunately, for Western corporate interests) by Islam, a religion that is regarded to be antagonistic to Western beliefs and values and treated with great circumspection if not outright hostility.

Zionism’s success is predicated on the brutal dispossession and expulsion of millions  of Palestinians who had lived peaceably on their land and had intimate ties to it over centuries. Let us not forget that Zionists in Hitler’s Germany even collaborated with the Nazis. The Zionists of Israel implemented their brutal segregationist policies against the Palestinians, learning from the masters in the field, the white racists who ruled South Africa, with whom Israel collaborated closely from the very beginning. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, is on record saying, “The entire Zionist movement is founded on the principle of a purely Jewish entity in Palestine.” Israel controls all the valuable land and resources (like water) in historic Palestine and uses them exclusively for the benefit of its Jewish population. Such blatant discrimination pervades all aspects of the Israeli landscape. And yet, today, the Hindu-nationalist BJP government in India sees fit to ally itself with the repressive regime of Ariel Sharon. On second thoughts, it may not be that strange after all, given the political proclivities of both governments and their commonly identified goal of fighting “Islamic terrorism”.  India’s abysmal record on the persistence of caste-based and inter-religious discrimination and violence, with the lower castes and the minority religions (like Islam) facing the brunt of the oppression, over half-a-century after independence from British colonial rule, must resonate with Israel’s similar record of oppression of the Palestinians. India’s leaders need to be reminded of what Mahatma Gandhi, whose name they unfailingly invoke to claim credibility and sanction for their acts, said of Jewish colonization of Palestine. He wrote in “The Harijan” of November 26, 1938, “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same way England belongs to the English and France belongs to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct.”  Who could have predicted that sixty five years later, living conditions would have only gotten far worse for the Palestinian people and Gandhi’s “heirs” would join the rest of the gutless world in conniving at, if not acquiescing in, the relentless and ruthless Israeli  destruction and devastation of Palestinian lives and property? 

Sadu Nanjundiah teaches physics at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut, and works with the Coalition for Social Justice, a group of faculty and students at CCSU that discusses and acts on issues of peace and justice, locally and internationally. Email: sadanand@ccsu.edu  

Other Articles by Sadu Nanjundiah

* Hulagu Bush
* Life During Wartime
* Endgame
* Israel/Palestine: An Open Letter to the Corporate Media
Manufactured Incidents: Lessons from History




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