News ID: 208084
Published: 0719 GMT January 14, 2018

Volley of controversy surrounds Netanyahu’s visit to India

Volley of controversy surrounds Netanyahu’s visit to India

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in India on a six-day trip. In the past, successive governments in New Delhi had been vocal about establishing closer ties with the Tel Aviv regime.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received Netanyahu at the Delhi airport on Sunday.

During the January 14-19 visit, cooperation in the fields of defense, security, trade and agriculture will be high on the agenda.

Political analysts and activists, however, do not see a bright outlook of growing mutual ties between the two sides, saying while Israel is charging headlong into warmer ties with New Delhi, India is not always the easiest partner.

Reacting to the visit, Apoorva Gautam, head of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement India, said the "intensifying" of diplomatic relations with Israel showed "there is deep contradiction in India's position at the international level with respect to Israel."

"There is an unmistakable attempt to join the US-Israel camp except when it comes to taking positions at the UN."

Elsewhere in her remarks, she said India's support for the Palestinian cause at the UN was in "response to international pressures and an attempt to not isolate India."

Modi’s predecessors had mostly kept Israel at arm’s length.

In December, the Modi administration backed a UN resolution condemning US President Donald Trump’s new Israel-friendly policy regarding Jerusalem al-Quds. India was among 128 countries to denounce Trump’s recognition of al-Quds as Israel’s "capital."

Ahead of Netanyahu's visit, Israel confirmed that India had called off a $500-million missile deal in early January.

India and Israel have had diplomatic relations for 25 years. Ties between the two sides have become more "visible" since Modi became prime minister in 2014.

Bloomberg recently published an article titled, “Budding Israel-India Romance Tested by Modi's Balancing Act”, where India's apparent shift in policy toward Israel is analyzed.

Nirupama Rao, India’s former ambassador to the US and China, said “the maturing relationship with Israel does make strategic sense for India.”

“But India is also not bereft of the realization that it has important interests in the [Persian] Gulf and West Asia to protect because these interests involve its many people who live and work in that region, as well as its energy security.”

Arthur Lenk, who served as an Israeli diplomat in India in the late 1990s, said, “India, more than most countries, is making it clear they can engage with Israel without having to package that relationship to the Palestinian cause.” “It’s India saying, ‘What’s in it for us?’”

Israel has been supplying India with various weapons systems, missiles and drones over the past few years, making India one of its biggest buyers of military hardware. The regime is currently selling an average of $1 billion of military equipment to India every year. Since Modi came to power, India has also signed several military deals with Israel.

There has been growing international concern over a renewal of border disputes between India and China. The hostilities had resulted in a short but deadly frontier war between the two sides in 1962, in which China emerged victorious. The two nuclear-armed powers share a 3,500-kilometer border, much of it is disputed between the two neighbors.

India is also facing intensified border tensions with Pakistan, due to the ongoing clashes in Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority region that has for years demanded independence or a merger with Pakistan.

In addition, the visit by the Israeli prime minister has also largely alienated India’s large Muslim minority and offended human rights groups. Dozens of Muslims participated in a rally in New Delhi on Saturday to protest against the visit. Protesters with placards and flags took part in the march before setting an effigy plastered with pictures of Netanyahu on fire.


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