Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Jul 2017 11:34:06

BY EVERY standard, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel is momentous. By every definition, this visit is going to attract global attention. The whole world will watch eagerly how the visit will shape the global equations in the next few years. For, with this visit, Mr. Modi will cross a barrier which none of his predecessors even thought of doing. This barrier has multiple layers -- political, ideological, economic, strategic, social ...! Each of these layers has had its own history between India and Israel. And there were times when India felt contented to remain confined behind that barrier. Mr. Modi, however, is breaking through -- with an obvious aim of breaking new ground with Israel as its partner in the times to come. Obviously, India-Israel ties would impact global scenario in a big way. 

Of course, this visit is not taking place all of a sudden. For well over a decade, since the time of Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee took over as Prime Minister, a slow ground was being made ready for the visit. And as India was preparing itself to open a new chapter in its international relations, Israel, too, was making similar efforts. All that slow and patient work, all that building of bonds at various levels, all that exploration of grounds of common interests have now come to fruition.

Of course, in India, at the popular level, there was a huge acceptance to friendship with Israel on two grounds -- one, the common Indians felt an affinity with Israel because it was fighting a successful but bitter battle against its neighbours; and two, certain disturbing trends in India’s domestic politics of appeasement of certain population segments had created serious doubts about India’s engagement with the Palestinian cause.

Despite a full awareness of this social mindset, the Government of India had persisted with its Palestine policy, thanks to the economic factor governed by the presence of oil which was India’s economic and strategic necessity, and because the friendship with Arab countries suited its international politics of non-alignment. India wanted to remain loyal to the non-aligned principle so vociferously advocated by Pandit Nehru, Col. Nasser of Egypt, and Archbishop Makarios of Ethiopia.

Slowly and steadily, however, India was also growing imperceptibly wary of its Arabian romance. Thanks also to Israel’s patience with Indian compulsions, there never was any serious apolitical obstacle to allow non-governmental friendship to build up over time. One of the major Indian ambassadors on this project was Mr. Lal Krishna Advani who was entrusted to keep building Israeli bonds slowly, not just by the Vajpayee Government but also the Congress Government earlier and later.
Parallely, both the countries had started making joint strategic overtures in the forms of exchange of defence-related intelligence and weapons and weapon-systems. There was also a welcome opening of diplomatic relationship between the two countries. All that good work is now acting as a ground for Mr. Modi’s landing in Israel.
The road ahead is full of great possibilities. Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu has already called his Indian counterpart his “friend”, and that has set a new tone to the bond in the offing. Mutual cooperation on economic -- industrial plus agricultural -- front is on the cards, in line with the strategic partnership already in progress. But what is going to count most in diplomatic terms is the strength the friendship is going to lend to the global fight against terror. Geopolitically, both, India and Israel, are positioned best to combat terror. In the times to come, all these dimensions are going to make their weight felt internationally. The best part is that both the countries and their leaders are fully aware of the shape they are giving to global politics.