The India-Israel relationship is not ideological, but it is being framed as such: Shairee Malhotra

14 March 2019
In July 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel, and six months later, his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu visited India—much bonhomie was on display on both occasions.
THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images
In July 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel, and six months later, his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu visited India—much bonhomie was on display on both occasions.
THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

On 28 February, Robert Fisk, the strategic analyst and Middle East correspondent of the British digital newspaper The Independent, wrote a pithy piece titled, “Israel is playing a big role in India’s escalating conflict with Pakistan.” Fisk pointed out twin ongoing processes between India and Israel to support his argument. “Israel has been assiduously lining itself up alongside India’s nationalist BJP government in an unspoken—and politically dangerous—‘anti-Islamist’ coalition, an unofficial, unacknowledged alliance, while India itself has now become the largest weapons market for the Israeli arms trade,” Fisk wrote. He was indicating towards the presence of a military-industrial complex in India. In July 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel, and six months later, his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu visited India—much bonhomie was on display on both occasions. Fisk argued that the mention of Israeli-made Rafael Spice-2000 “smart bombs” by the Indian media while writing about the strikes by the Indian Air Force at Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province is not incidental.

In his piece, Fisk quoted Shairee Malhotra, an Indian academic who is working as an associate researcher at the European Institute for Asian Studies, in Brussels. In a January article for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Malhotra argued, “India must continue to pursue a strong strategic, economic and security relationship with Israel. But this kinship should be regarded as more pragmatic and transformational than ideological.” Fisk is not hopeful of such an approach. “[It] is difficult to see how Zionist nationalism will not leach into Hindu nationalism when Israel is supplying so many weapons to India,” he wrote.

Though both Fisk and Malhotra warn the two countries against projecting a narrative of an anti-Islamist ideological alliance between India and Israel, Malhotra differs on many of his conclusions. In an email conversation with Praveen Donthi, a staff writer at The Caravan, Malhotra weighed in on Robert Fisk’s thoughts about India-Israel relations. She stated that the Indian government, its strategic community and its populace should note that though “it may seem attractive to label [the India-Israel] relationship as an anti-Islam alliance, India’s contentions are only with Pakistan, and not with the rest of the Muslim world, with whom India has robust relations.”

Don't want to read further? Stay in touch

  • Free newsletters. updates. and special reads
  • Be the first to hear about subscription sales
  • Register for Free

    Praveen Donthi is a former deputy political editor at The Caravan.

    Keywords: defence Israel foreign diplomacy Pulwama foreign relations Balakot foreign policy Benjamin Netanyahu Narendra Modi international relations
    COMMENT