Image 01 Image 03

India Tag

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee is set to become the first head of the state from India to visit Israel. The visit by the Indian head of the state, set for early October, has a great symbolic value -- considering India only established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Much like Israel, India too is a parliamentary democracy where President acts as a ceremonial head of the state, while executive powers rest with the Prime Minister and the cabinet. The high-level state visit is the result of tenuous diplomacy spanning decades that saw an erstwhile adversarial Asian giant turn into a trusted ally. Since India and Israel established diplomatic relations 24 years ago, Israel has become an important trade and technology partner for India -- not just in defence sector. Bilateral trade between the two countries that was pegged at $200 million in early 1990s has now crossed well over $4 billion. In recent months, Israeli defense companies like Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael and Meprolight have entered in partnerships with Indian companies to form defence Joint Ventures – giving boost to Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” initiative aimed to develop India’s manufacturing capabilities.

For the second time in a few weeks, India has abstained at the United Nations instead of voting on an Israel-related resolution. On July 3, 2015 India abstained from weighing in on a UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning Israel for 2014 Gaza conflict. The anti-Israel resolution passed with 47 votes in favour, with the US opposing, and India amongst 5 nations abstaining. Then on Monday, Israel unsuccessfully tried to table a resolution to challenge the official recognition of Hamas-linked NGO in the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is fair to ask: why abstain? Israel is one of India's leading defense partners, and an emerging trade partner. But considering the fact that until recently India was referred to as the "23rd Arab state" for siding with Arab-block on every anti-Israel resolution at the UN, this is a huge diplomatic shift for the world's largest democracy. Since India normalized diplomatic ties with the Jewish State in 1991, Israel has become India’s partner of choice when it comes modernizing the country’s military capabilities. The government is collaborating with Israel in agriculture, water management, and renewable and clean technologies; and India’s technology-driven IT giants have made significant investments in Israel’s innovation and startup ecosystem.

The threat of ISIS has spread from Syria and Iraq, to Egypt, and even to Europe and the United States. Islamic militants are using both ground operations and digital campaigns to infiltrate new territory, and recent reports show that now India's government is alarmed at the recent inroads made by ISIS, especially in the country's northern regions. India is home to the world's second largest Muslim population. Numbering roughly 180 million, Muslims make up for about 14 percent of the country's population, and ISIS is taking full advantage of the opportunity to seize control of new ground. Not only have young Indian Muslims joined the ranks of ISIS combatants in Syria and Iraq, they are also acting as influential jihadi propagandists online. In December 2014, Britain’s Channel 4 uncovered the identity of a Bangalore-based man allegedly operating ISIS' most influential Twitter account. ISIS’ influence in India is not limited to just talk anymore. Supporters of the terror outfit in Muslim-dominated regions are feeling emboldened to show their support outside the realm of cyberspace---and it shows. Nowhere is the support for ISIS stronger than in the northern Indian State of (Jammu-) Kashmir. In early 1990s, widespread anti-Hindu pogroms in Kashmir drove about half a million people from their ancestral homes. Having cleansed large parts of Kashmir from the native Hindu population, the Islamists are now fighting to carve out a separate, Islamic country.

Indian newspapers generally echoed Western sentiments by welcoming the Iran deal and India's Foreign Office also took a line similar to the one taken by the EU and other Western powers. But behind the scenes, India is  getting ready for the coming nuclear arms race in their Arab neighbourhood. Far from buying President Obama's optimism over the 'peace dividend', Indian defence establishment is building up its nuclear defence capabilities. In recent months, India has invested heavily in ramping up missile defences. With Israeli expertise, India will soon be able to detect and intercept missiles within the range of 5,000 km – double the aerial distance between New Delhi and Tehran. As President Obama was announcing the Iran deal to the world, Indian government was busy clearing new defence deals worth billions. Indian News website Firstpost reports:

In determining why Secretary of State John Kerry was not at the Paris march of world leaders denouncing the terror attacks there, I noted he was paving the way for President Obama's upcoming visit to India. This Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted Obama with open arms.
President Obama and his Indian counterpart broke through a five-year impasse on Sunday to pave the way for American companies to build nuclear power plants here as the two countries sought to transform a fraught geopolitical relationship into a fresh partnership for a new era of cooperation. ...The amity between the two leaders was palpable from the start as Mr. Modi broke with protocol to greet Mr. Obama at the airport with a warm handshake and hug. During their later public appearance, Mr. Modi referred to the president as “Barack” and thanked him for his “deep personal commitment” to their friendship. In a toast at a state dinner Sunday evening, Mr. Obama returned the favor, calling Mr. Modi “my partner and friend.” “This new partnership will not happen overnight,” Mr. Obama said at the earlier appearance. “It’s going to take time to build and some patience. But it’s clear from this visit that we have a new and perhaps unprecedented opportunity, and deepening our ties with India is going to remain a top foreign policy priority for my administration.”
A TIMES NOW video offers a glimpse into the initial meeting in India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recently elected on a pro-capitalism (and btw, pro-Israel) platform, appeared today to a packed Madison Square Garden in New York City. I watched much of the speech, with English translation, but it was really, really long (full video here), so I only heard parts.  The parts I heard were similar to the economic empowerment and pro-growth policies that you likely would hear from a conservative growth candidate here. Modi also cheered on the crowd of Indian immigrants, thanking them for raising the profile and pride of India. Indian PM Modi at Madison Square Garden 9-28-2014 crowd Here are some highlights gathered by an Indian TV network:
  • India used to be known as a country of snakes and snake charmers
  • It is only because of you (Indian-American community) that we have made such a huge progress
  • If not for you all,there wouldn't have been an IT revolution
  • You (Indian-American community) have earned a lot of respect in USA through skills and values
  • America is the oldest democracy in the world. India is the biggest democracy in the world.
  • People from around the world have settled in America. People from India have settled across the world.
  • It is our endeavour to make development a people's movement
  • If the nation has to progress then good governance is essential
This will warm your hearts:

It looks likes one of the global flashpoints I mentioned earlier this year is heating up. While Iraq descends rapidly into chaos, tensions may be building in another section of the Asian continent. India is poised to double its forces along the border with China.
The new BJP government is keen to send out a strong signal to Beijing regarding border disputes by nearly doubling the deployment of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel on the India-China frontier. Top government sources said the ITBP will very soon have more boots on the ground to effectively guard the border that has witnessed several Chinese incursions in the past few years. The previous UPA government was often criticised for being "soft" on the issue of Chinese incursions. The Home Ministry has approved the construction of 54 new border outposts along the disputed frontier with China. A proposal in this regard was made by the ITBP before the polls but the previous government did not go ahead on it. With the new outposts, the number of troops on the ground too will increase. Currently, there are close to 40 outposts and nearly 15,000 troops guard the sensitive zones. Sources said the number could now go up to 30,000. "There were critical gaps regarding security on the China border that need to be filled up," said a senior Home Ministry official. "The increase in deployment should not be construed as an aggressive approach on our part. We are only securing out territory," a top government official said.
What is most interesting is the new prime minister's inauguration is also sending another message to China -- one I suspect it will not much like:

I don't know much about Indian politics, so I haven't written about the election sweep which threw out the long-dominant Congress Party. I do know that successive Indian governments have had at times contradictory relations with with Israel; not as crazed anti-Israel as many, but not solidly on Israel's side either. Indian-born writer Vijeta Uniyal believes that the election signals a sea change both politically and economically, with India looking to Israel for technology and investment to jump start the moribund Indian economy, India’s PM-elect Narendra Modi: a friend of Israel:
Narendra Modi is the next Prime Minister of India. Modi’s NDA-Alliance won 336 out of 543 seats in the Indian parliament. He has routed the ruling Congress Party led by Rahul Gandhi, the 4th generation member of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty Modi is arguably one of the most capable administrators in India. As Chief Minister of Gujarat State (2002-14) he turned around the economy, created infrastructure and improved public services. With a population of 60 million, Gujarat’s per-capita GDP today is much higher than India’s average. A lot of ink has been spilled in the international press over this relatively unknown man now at the helm in New Delhi. However there is one story readers in Israel need to hear: Modi is a friend of Israel, the like of whom India has not seen before. This fact can be stated without any exaggeration or wishful thinking. All one needs to do is to look at Modi’s track record. Modi is the first Indian leader to have actually visited Israel. He has often expressed admiration for Israel’s achievements in research, technology and innovation; espacially in the field of agriculture and water resources. Every year more than 2000 farmers from Gujarat visit Israel to get trained in advance farming techniques – at their own expense. He welcomed Israeli Companies to enter water management and recycling sector in 50 cities of Gujarat; and invited Israel to be the guest country at Gujarat state’s flagship Agricultural Fair (Vibrant Gujarat Agro Tech Global Fair 2014).

Japan and India don't necessarily have the warmest relationship with their neighbor, China. China hasn't exactly lessened tensions by enforcing a no-fly zone over Japanese islands. And its rapidly expanding military efforts haven't brought comfort to India's government, especially with a long history of border tensions. Since it has become apparent that the Obama Administration is unreliable in handling complex international policy dynamics, what can Japan and India do? Go the tradition route: Form a strategic regional alliance. China downplays Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's visit to India
China on Monday downplayed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India as a bilateral issue, even as the state-media termed the trip as a failure for not succeeding in pinning down Beijing. "The visit you mentioned is an issue between India and Japan," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a media briefing while responding to a question on Abe's just-concluded visit to India. The visit evoked considerable media attention in view of the China-Japan diplomatic stand off over the disputed islands in East China Sea.