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India-Israel tango: Putting national interest ahead of vote-bank politics

Monday, July 10, 2017
By Virendra Kapoor

Correcting wrongs of history, Modi embraces pragmatic foreign policy

The BJP has always had a great fascination for Israel. Jana Sangh, its earlier avatar, publicly celebrated the pummeling of the Arabs by Israel in the epic six-day war back in 1967. Organiser, the official mouthpiece of the RSS, in fact, plastered the capital with wall posters, announcing triumphantly “12 lakh Jews defeat 12 crore Arabs.” Humiliation of the Arabs by the nascent Jewish State was a source of joy. Equally, the saffron party felt vindicated that Nehru’s pro-Arab tilt was shown up to be hollow. India could profit from befriending the brave Jewish State which had withstood the combined might of the Islamic world.

The Jana Sangh, which always had Hindutva as its core ideology, even though it would be a few years more before Advani would spell it out explicitly, was a fierce critic of the overt pro-Arab, pro-USSR foreign policy pursued by Nehru in the garb of non-alignment. Rooting for Israel, thus, was a natural corollary of the BJS-BJP critique. All through the time when Israel was treated a pariah by official India, senior Jana Sangh leaders would make it a point to show up at the annual Israel Day reception held by an intrepid Indian at a small hotel in New Delhi’s Sujan Singh Park. In sharp contrast, on the Palestine Day the who’s who of the ruling party registered its presence along with the well-known cabal of the Delhi-centric leftists who had then enjoyed access to the inner sanctums of power.

That there was a domestic electoral angle to the Congress’s pro-Arab, anti-Israel stance is undeniable. The fear of alienating the sizable Muslim vote had kept Indira and Rajiv Gandhi captive to the no-truck- with-Israel lobby in the foreign policy establishment and outside in the political spectrum. It was left to Narasimha Rao, the first prime minister from outside the Nehru-Gandhi charmed circle, who courageously established full diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv in 1992 — just as, a few months earlier, he had jettisoned the self-defeating economic order imposed by the Family.

The point is simple. Modi’s three-day visit to Israel, easily the most successful of all his foreign sojourns thus far, symbolized a true meeting of hearts and minds, the honoured guest and the hosts together checking all the right boxes, be it on terror, security and strategic cooperation, partnership and mutual defence and technological assistance, research and development, etc. Israel was always keen on befriending India but it was India which was holding back from clasping the extended hand for fear of annoying the Islamist world.

India still played coy, refusing to do business with Israel despite the fact that its pro-Arab tilt had not prevented the Islamic world from humiliating it at the Rabat conference, forcing a snubbed Indian Foreign Minister to return with his tail between his legs, or in repeatedly taking a pro-Pakistan line on Kashmir. Long before the Arab voice acquired heft thanks to the power of the petro-dollars, Nehru and his ilk adopted a sentimental view of the Arab-Israel conflict, supporting the feckless and divided Arab nations. Eventually, a humiliated Nasser, whom Nehru touted as his soul mate in the non-aligned world, would do a quiet deal with Israel, while Nehru was still clinging to mere shibboleths of his one-sidedness on the Israel-Palestine question.

Now, what was begun by Narasimha Rao has reached its fruition under Modi. The BJP Prime Minister did not feel any qualms visiting Israel; nor did he deem it necessary to salve the Palestine conscience by linking the visit to Tel Aviv by marking presence in Ramallah. What Modi’s immediate predecessors practised, albeit covertly, he has made it overt. The de facto relationship with Israel has now become fully de jure — never mind the Asaduddin Owaisis and other self-styled ‘thekedars’ of the Indian Muslims.

Modi, in any case, should see percentage in embracing Israel openly, given that Muslims hardly vote for his party. Besides, with a number of Muslim countries themselves in cahoots with the Jewish nation, was there any point India denying itself the immense gains, particularly in sophisticated weaponry, stealth warfare, sea water treatment, agriculture, et al.

Meanwhile, the leftist-secularist crowd might not like it but the truth is that both India and Israel are dogged by internal subversion and external aggression. The so-called movement for azadi in Kashmir is nothing but Islamic Pakistan’s war against a secular and democratic India. Likewise, a Jewish State amidst a sea of very hostile Islamic nations, even if they remain constantly at war among themselves, is an unacceptable affront to the Islamists of all hues.

If people like Owaisi and his backers in the secularist parties are unhappy at the sealing of the India-Israel friendship it is because they think not as Indians first but as Muslims first, the root cause of the trouble in Kashmir and many other places in the country which erupt in needless violence at the flimsiest of sparks. Modi couldn’t be bothered by the petty concerns of these professional secularists who habitually see everything through the prism of minorities with an eye on their votes. Putting India first has meant putting ties with Israel on an even keel. Full marks to Modi for doing so grandly, so spectacularly.

No check on judicial arrogance
Prakash Chandra Parakh was in the news recently. The former Coal Secretary was convicted by a special CBI court for wrongful allotment of a coal block. The Minister for Coal at the time was Manmohan Singh. He went scot free, with the court saying the poor fellow was ‘misled’ by Parakh. The truth however was somewhat different. The allotment was done at the behest of Singh who, in turn, had received the name of the allottee from his 10 Janpath bosses. Period.

Anyway, post-conviction, Parakh has written yet another book: Executive Failure and Judicial Arrogance. All those with a stake in the system must read it. Parakh, universally acknowledged by his peers as an honest and efficient bureaucrat, poses a vital question. If the judges of the realm, who strut their act as if they alone are the paragons of all virtue — let us not talk of Justice Karnan and scores of others who routinely pollute the higher judiciary — have time, they will profit from reading Parakh’s book.     

He poses the question: “The court decision … has serious flaws and completely overlooks specific provisions of law. While a citizen aggrieved of parliamentary or executive arrogance can approach the judiciary for redressal, there is no relief against judicial arrogance.” Very well put, indeed.

Parakh further laments that “ no court in the country has the capacity to compensate the citizen for the loss of reputation and the mental agony caused by a wrong judicial order.” Amen.

Pawar let down Bhujbal
NCP chief Sharad Pawar has been pressing central ministers to try and get his party colleague Chaggan Bhujbal, a former deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, out of trouble. Bhujwal is currently in jail for having amassed illicit assets worth over Rs. 300 crores. The Income Tax Deparment and Enforcement Directorate have attached a number of his benami properties. But it seems the Centre is in no mood to heed the entreaties of Pawar. The law, as they say, will take its own course.

However, the question is : Can Pawar escape blame for the travails of NCP’s OBC face? If he was so solicitous of Bhujbal’s welfare, he ought to have given him a refresher course in `how to make tonnes of money and still get away unscathed.’ After all, Pawar too has risen from humble beginnings to emerge as one of the richest politicians in the country. The Maratha chieftain owed it to his valued colleague to teach him how to make money and yet remain uncaught?

Yadav Samajwad: Nine crores for snake catching
A small item in an obscure part of a newspaper caught the eye. It said, among other things, the inquiry ordered by the Yogi Adityanath Government would probe how Rs. nine crore could be spent on ‘catching snakes’ from the Janeshwar Mishra Park in Lucknow. Some questions are obvious: Who were the snake catchers? How were they appointed? How many snakes were caught? And where were they deposited? Whether any snakes were killed in the process, if so, why? And how were their skins disposed? Hopefully, the inquiry would answer some of these questions. But, honestly, isn’t Rs nine crores for catching snakes rather excessive even in these corrupt times?

A matter of gender
Think about it. Indian women’s team comprehensively beat Pakistan in the ICC Women’s World Cup but barely anyone noticed. Gender equality, this?

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