More interesting than reading history is interpreting it. Though remembering dates and names may be a necessary evil for some as they come handy in debates, lost in the trivia is often the essence and purpose of it. And interpreting ‘the present’ that would become a crucial chapter in history at a later date is exciting.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Israel. Only Israel and not Palestine.
This is similar to shifting the fulcrum of India’s relations with Middle-East. Few years ago, such a visit was not comprehensible. An Indian Prime Minister visiting Israel itself is a news and added to that shock is excluding Palestine from the itinerary.
There is a difference in the way Narendra Modi handled India’s relations with other countries and the way they used to be earlier. Despite change in persons, India’s external affairs were largely guided by the way Nehru characterized them during his days. All Indira Gandhi, Narasimha Rao did were some deviations from the Nehru’s doctrine, forced by the necessities. Modi on the other hand, defined foreign policy based on necessities; necessities of India as a nation.
Nehru wanted to cultivate an image for himself in the post WWII world that was deeply divided between capitalists and communists and chose to sit on the wall, Modi has no such luxury of playing safe in a multi-polar world that is not defined by only two doctrines. Present world has evolved into a conglomeration of overlapping groups practising capitalism, communism, religious extremism, nationalism and what not!
Communist China functions like a perfect capitalist state overriding individual rights. Capitalist America, on the other hand safeguards individual rights and at the same time kicks out globalisation as it is now ‘nationalist’ too. Ever apologetic for the crimes of Hitler, Europe is now playing the liberal that it never was, while the imperialistic islands of Queen isolate themselves even from regional groups. Arabs are a divided lot, both factions buying weapons from the same supplier only to kill themselves. In the immediate aftermath of WWII, value for human life was so high, weapons remained redundant. Maybe now the war has become a part of daily life in many parts of the world, human life was never so cheap.
Since independence, India’s attitude toward Israel was governed by two factors. One is the indigenous Muslim population that identifies itself as part of notional Turkish Caliphate. The other is how Israel has evolved itself. Israel evolved into a nationalist state, the very epitome of what caused the mass migration of Jews from world over. And both reasons only pushed India away from Israel.
The second reason first. Claiming to be victims, Jews escaped from Germany, along with Jews from other countries moved to their homeland to make true of some prophecy. There was a problem, however in the form of Arabs who were inhabiting the homeland for the last two millennia. Displacing the Arabs from their homes sounds unethical, especially when the incoming Jews were refugees in all the countries from where they came. True to their hypocrisy, the Arab allies turned deaf ears to the requests and demands of Arabs. Even if they did, they could do nothing, as most of these countries were indirectly controlled by Jews. India being the non-aggressor that it was, chose not to support Israel against Palestinians. India too had experienced the horror in the form of riots during partition, the general psyche was not in favour of Israel kicking out Arabs out of their “homes” – this is how it was perceived.
Coupled to this is the influence of Indian Muslims. The problem with Indian Muslims is that some of them are prone to the sermons from outside borders. And that was the reason why India had seen Khilafat movement. Though Arabs displaced by Jews were both Christian and Muslims, in the eyes of average Indian, all Arabs are Muslims and the concept of Christian Arab was alien. By the time Indians learnt about the difference, number of living Christian Arabs dwindled. To placate the large Muslim population and prevent further internal disturbances, India looked at Palestine with sympathy. Of course, irrespective of the reasons, Palestine deserved sympathy for the way it was pruned. But, the opinion of Indian Muslims was largely the reason for the apathy India exhibited towards Israel.
Nevertheless, Israel evolved into a mighty state with time and India warmed to it during Rao’s tenure though not quite enough. Given this background, Modi’s exclusive visit to Israel is seen as a deviation from the conventional practise.
There are standard critics like Asaduddin Owaisi who wanted Modi to visit Palestine too. ‘What about the Palestine cause?’ asked Owaisi. What he did not tell was how the so called Islamic countries in the surroundings have never seriously helped strengthen the cause of Palestine. Apart from their own internal feuds, there were talks of even how Saudis have planned to take the help of Israel to fight common enemy – Iran. Moreover, all these countries with the exception of Iraq under Saddam Hussain have supported Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir, against the interests of India.
The humiliation Arabs inflict on Muslims from Indian subcontinent including Pakistan and Bangladesh, has failed to open the eyes of elitist Indian Muslims, who see more similarities with Arabs than Hindus.
Well, these all are political reasons and only a part of core theme of Modi’s foreign affairs doctrine. What essentially is at the heart of Modi’s foreign policy is – Business. He himself being another “Chatur Baniya”, Modi dealt with all nations depending on what he expects from them. So happened his visits to many of the middle-east countries. Even after Iran’s unsolicited advise on Kashmir, India forwarded a business deal worth billions of Dollars to develop a major oil field by an Indian consortium led by ONGC. What has Palestine got to give to India? NOTHING.
Maybe it is time India to look ahead and change policies with time. No policy including the current policy can be suitable for all circumstances and at all times. With time, things change and so do relationships.
Maybe not visiting Palestine is a signal to Arab countries that they need not poke their nose in India’s internal affairs. In simple business terms, Israel visit is India’s need. India gains perhaps nothing by a visit to Palestine, except it being a symbolic one. It may sound harsh, but present day foreign affairs are a cut-throat business.