Modi’s Israel visit is a blatant departure from the age-old Indian policy

When Mr Narendra Modi embarks on his 3-day trip to Tel Aviv on 6 July, he will be the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. Incidentally, this visit coincides with two important milestones: it marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the full diplomatic relations between India and Israel. It also marks the 50 years of the occupation of the West Bank including Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights by Israel following the Six-day War started by the Jewish State in June 1967.

Modi will be the first Indian dignitary who will visit Israel but will shun the Palestinian Authority. Until now, Indian authorities visited both Israel and Palestine to bolster their ties with Israel as well as to reaffirm their support to the Palestinian cause which India has been doing even since before the Independence. This would apparently help Israeli propaganda effort around this visit to whitewash Israel's highhandedness in Palestine and the occupied territories and refusal to withdraw from these occupied territories despite hundreds of UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. 

It is a fact that the first high-level contacts between India and Israel coincided with NDA I rule. Atal Behari Vajpayee hosted the then Israeli PM Ariel Sharon in 2003. Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu met on the sidelines of UN General Assembly in 2014. 

It is significant that, in a departure from its earlier stand, India has stopped condemning Israeli actions.  When the United Nations Human Rights Council report affirming that Israel had committed war crimes in the occupied territories was tabled, India abstained from voting, one of only five countries of the world to do so.

Over the last 25 years, the bilateral ties between the two countries have expanded rapidly in areas such as defence, internal security, agriculture, science and technology, space and foreign trade. India is now No. 1 importer of Israeli military equipment. The bilateral trade hovers around 5 billion dollars annually, excluding defence. Modi has given contracts to the largest Israeli armaments company which was earlier blacklisted by UPA for indulging in kickbacks. Israeli weapons have not proved very useful to India. Their much-touted border control electronic sensors are ineffective and infiltration from the Pakistani side into India continues unabated. Israeli drones too have failed in India. 

It is true that growing cooperation in defence and internal security is necessary in our national interest. But, one of the cornerstones of our foreign policy over the last seven decades has been our consistent support to the Palestinian cause and human rights issue and national liberation movements around the world. We must continue to support the Palestinian struggle against foreign occupation and denounce Israeli aggression. Other countries do so and still enjoy bilateral ties with Israel. 

The author is leader of Majlis Ittehadul Muslimin and Member of Parliament representing Hyderabad.

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