Why Narendra Modi, who visits Forigenlaender
India and Israel. A love marriage
“This wedding was decided in heaven,” one partner tweeted. And promptly came the other's Twitter response: "... and closed on earth." In mid-January the wedding ceremony between India and Israel took place when Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Delhi, half a year after the engagement, when Narendra Modi visited Israel.
Three days of honey moon
The two performing showmen are known to belong to the species of alpha animals. So there was a tense hug when they were greeted, as both were eager to hug the other, to close him up, so to speak. The next day the protocol department had learned something new. Netanyahu, the guest, ran up to Modi with drooping arms; and the latter made use of his host right to pull the other to his chest with arms outstretched.
What followed was three days of honey moon. The Taj Mahal for the Netanyahu couple, a walk along the Sabarmati river promenade in Ahmedabad, a little hand spinning in the Gandhi Ashram, a Bollywood gala in Bombay, minutes of silence at Gandhi's grave, the laying of a wreath in front of a memorial for Indian soldiers, then in Chabad -House in Bombay, one of the scenes of the terrorist attack on November 26, 2008.
Eroding Arab power bloc
There were of course also bilateral talks, and these gave an indication that India and Israel actually have a lot to offer each other. This applies primarily to Israeli technologies, which are well matched to the huge pent-up demand of the Asian giant. There are security and weapon systems, robotics and telematics. But agricultural technologies are also very much in demand here, for example to save water, or hybrid seeds for better productivity in drought areas.
With improved coordination of their respective foreign policies, both countries can also better represent their strategic interests. Israel uses every opportunity to overcome its regional isolation. The Arab power bloc is crumbling, not least thanks to the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is an opportunity to loosen India's strong diplomatic ties to the Islamic nations, especially when it comes to Iran.
The moment seems propitious. The Hindu nationalist government, with its pronounced aversion to its own Muslim minority, sees the friendship with the Gulf states primarily as a marriage of convenience. It is based on the dependence on Middle Eastern oil, on the lucrative job market in the Gulf region for millions of its workers and on India's hunger for petrodollars for its underdeveloped infrastructure.
The political-ideological change of power in Delhi ended the decades-long distance between Delhi and Tel Aviv. The traditional pro-Arab and Israel-critical stance of the Congress Party has given way to the pragmatic one of the BJP. India had diplomatically recognized Israel as one of the first states in 1948. But it took more than forty years to establish diplomatic relations and an exchange of ambassadors.
Narendra Modi's trip to Israel in July last year was the first ever visit by an Indian head of government. He was received with the ceremony for a president. The harmonious personal chemistry between the two top politicians helped to use this courtoisie on the return visit and to raise the bilateral relationship above the usual diplomatic "courant normal".
The large-scale ideological changes after the end of the Cold War of the last twenty years also fostered rapprochement. Little is left of the old non-aligned solidarity between Arabs and Delhi, on the contrary. With the gradual growth of Islamism in the Arab world, Pakistan has increasingly distinguished itself as the preferred partner of the Gulf States. The earlier Arab “equidistance” to the two South Asian rivals has been abolished. This can be seen, for example, in the Kashmir issue, on which the Organization of Islamic States loudly supports Islamabad's call for a plebiscite.
However, this shift in weight does not apply to Iran. Iran suspects its neighbor Pakistan, in which the Sunni Sharia is the basic law, of discriminating against, if not persecuting, its own Shiite minority. Tehran and Delhi also have similar ideas about Afghanistan, where both are working towards tying back Pakistani claims to hegemony. Finally, Iran offers India a reliable transit to Central Asia after the old Silk Road routes through Pakistan and an unstable Afghanistan have been blocked for a long time.
Dissonant accompanying noises
As is well known, Iran has developed into Israel's intimate enemy. A look at the respective relationship between the two countries and Tehran shows that the Indian-Israeli “dream marriage” may not have been sanctioned in heaven after all. In the run-up to the Netanyahu visit, Indian media quoted a column in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Instead of a love marriage, she had spoken maliciously of an "affair" and thus insinuated that, like so many other affairs, this could also come to an end at short notice.
But realpolitik can quickly sweep aside ideological affinities and diplomatic whispering of love. When the UN General Assembly voted in December to condemn the USA for relocating the embassy, India joined the hostile majority instead of abstaining, as Israel and the USA had hoped.
Dissonant accompanying noises were added. As luck would have it, just two days before Netanyahu's arrival, the Indian and Iranian transport ministers signed a contract for the delivery of locomotives and rolling stock to Iran. In his closing remarks, Minister Nitin Gadkari spoke of the joint plan to connect the Iranian port of Chabahar with a railway line to Central Asia, "in line with India’s goal to connect to Central Asia and ultimately to Europe" - India’s counterpart to China’s OBOR initiative.
Another marriage in heaven
Despite the verbose shawms of the Netanyahu visit, these noises showed that the government wanted to avoid the impression of being ripped off by Israel. India may be Israel's greatest armaments science; however, this did not prevent Delhi from canceling the contract for the delivery of 8,000 Israeli spike anti-tank projectiles shortly before Netanyahu's arrival.
Possibly this was just part of the usual business poker with which one partner tries to negotiate better terms. As is well known, Narendra Modi comes from Gujerat, which is proud of its business boxes, which even know how to press water from stone. I remember the definition a Bania once gave me of his caste: "A Bania can buy from a Jew and sell to a Scotsman - and still makes a profit."
And as far as love marriage is concerned, it is known that conjugal vows, in business as in politics, are goods of limited value. This was evident in Israel's relationship with China, India's rival. Like many other countries, Tel Aviv wants to benefit from the OBOR project of the century. In March last year, Netanyahu made a special trip to Beijing to praise President Xi Jinping's initiative. The Indian Express investigated the matter and discovered the following statement by Netanyahu in the archive: "We are your perfect junior partner ... I believe this is a marriage made in heaven."
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