Speculations that China might emerge as a superpower in Asia has sparked US fears that have metamorphosed the American stance on India as not just ambivalent or pro-Pakistan, but as one that is definitely in favour of India. To counter growing Chinese political power, the US has mooted the idea of a US-India-Israel Troika as an antidote to Chinese political power. Never mind that China is the largest trade partner that the US has today. This has compelled political analysts all over the world to scrutinize the Jewish island of Israel and its role, specifically in relation with the predominantly Muslim states it is surrounded by.
An interesting (albeit relatively unknown) fact about Israel to begin with, Israel wished to be a part of the Non Alignment Movement that was headed at that time by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the esteemed Prime Minister of India. Following the vote of the Soviet Union in favour of Israel in the matter concerning the partition of Jerusalem, and in the light of the fact that the Soviet Union was Israel’s greatest supplier of military equipment during the Czechoslovakian War, Israel was confident that the Soviet Union would prove to be a strong ally. However, the supply of weapons to the surrounding, hostile states of the Middle East by the Soviet Union virtually coerced Israel to turn to the US for economic and military aid. This alliance was fostered under the able guidance of Abba Eban, the Israeli representative to the United Nations who was assisted faithfully by his Press Secretary, Kenen. Both these people have proven to be the forerunners of the Israeli lobby in the US as it stands today. Thus it is evident that ever since its inception, Israel has shared a healthy alliance with the US, a friendship that has now enabled Israel to become the fifth largest supplier of military equipment in the world.
Israel’s relationship with India is also unique. To begin with both countries are victims of Islamist terrorism. This has nurtured cooperation in the fields of curbing terrorism as well as in the arena of joint defence. The missiles India boasted of before its alliance with Israel properly took off are primarily Agni, Prithvi, Trishul, Nag and Aakash. With the alliance, all these missiles have been upgraded with Israeli help. The Ka-25 helicopters and the crystal maze bombs have revolutionized defense practices in India. It is to be noted that the Kargil War of 1999 was tilted in India’s favour only when laser equipment from Israel allowed Indian Mirages to emerge victorious in Pakistani bunkers. Israel has now replaced Russia as India’s biggest supplier of defense equipment.
But even this relationship is not without its own constraints. Israel has differences of opinion with India on many issues of international consequence. Israel’s relations with Pakistan are the primary problem. To date, the Pentagon and Israel are the only two international powers who engage actively in diplomatic talks with Pakistan. Whenever military leaders from the Islamic republic have to be deported, they are deported to Israel. Iran is another bone of contention. While Israel regards Iran as a source of cross border terrorism, Iran has been a traditional ally for India. India’s vote against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) is symbolic of growing American influence on India and the worsening of Iran’s ties with India. Earlier this month when the Pakistani President Asif Zardari escaped to Iran, he mentioned in the Press, an impending Rawalpindi-Tehran gas pipeline. New Delhi figured nowhere in the picture.
Palestine is another grey area. After independence, Nehru supported the cause of self determination by extending his support to the Palestinian cause of self-determination. Now, India, like in most other cases, refuses to take a concrete stance on the issue. We are reminded here of Saddam’s Hussain’s hanging when, under US’ influences India refrained from condemning the hanging and only expressed their disappointment that such a thing had happened. Here too, India did nothing concrete to show its adherence to the Palestinian cause. Yasser Arafat once called Indira Gandhi his sister. Today, India cannot imagine conceiving of its foreign policy being aligned against Palestine.
So far India has taken a cue from Jordan and has refused to confuse its stance on other countries affecting its relationship with Israel. But this is an interim stance which even Israel will not allow in the long run. India has fenced for long enough. We need to stop being putty in the hands of the US and treating them like the Big Brother always. We need to formulate our own foreign policy before we lose whatever shreds of self respect we might have left in the international scenario.