India, Israel, Modi, and bending the history of non-alignment

While the attempt to upgrade the theory of non-alignment to the forces of globalization and the rise of the BRICs predates the rise of Prime Minister Modi, he has ostensibly put the theory of “Non-Alignment 2.0” into action, which has effectively ended the post-colonial hangover Indians had been suffering since independence.

In hosting the US President Obama for the first time at India’s 65th Republic Day (January 26th, 2015) and aligning openly with the Western powers – including a hug-fest with his counterparts in the US, Australia, Canada, and France – Modi has commenced a new chapter in the history of India’s openness to the world.

Obama hugs Modi

Obama hugs Modi

PM Modi‘s absence at the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference (April 24th, 2015), clearly suggested to many experts and observers, the center of his policy was moving in a different orbit.

The growing alliance between India and the US was on display during the recent trip by the Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to New Delhi (June 3, 2015). “India now holds more annual military exercises with the United States than any other country, cumulative defense sales have grown from virtually zero to more than $8 billion and high-level exchanges on defense issues have increased substantially,” according to a report by CSIS.

1960 non-aligned movement leaders

1960 non-aligned movement leaders

Finally, the recent announcement that PM Modi will be the first Indian head of state to visit Netanyahu’s Israel has further added to the evidence that he is taking India in a new direction of openness with the West.  As PM Modi repeatedly said during his campaign, he is the product of the post-independence Indian mind.

The Indo-Israeli defense relationship is likely to grow stronger with the Likud party in power. Netanyahu’s comments after meeting Modi in New York during the UN General Assembly meetings in September 2014 suggest that the “sky is the limit” between the two allies. They recently signed the long-awaited $144 million deal for India to buy Barak-I missiles.

In November 2014, before President Obama’s historic visit in January, New Delhi and Jerusalem tested the Barak-8 anti-missile system. New Delhi has acquired almost $700 million dollar worth of Israeli arms since Modi took power.

Historically, Indo-Israeli ties are much warmer when Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is in power. The Modi government’s anti-terrorism and pro-business stance is compatible with deeper defense and economic relations with Jerusalem.

Netanyahu and Modi

Netanyahu and Modi

When India’s Congress Party is in power, the pendulum often swings the other way. This has been the case as far back as the 1955 Bandung Conference when Pandit Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, briefly considered but decided against inviting Israel to the meeting of non-aligned nations. He was trying to appease the Arab states in the Middle East by openly siding with the Palestinian cause. This set in motion India’s foreign policy for the next half-century.

However, despite this trend, Israel was India’s steadfast ally during the 1962, 1965, and 1971 wars.

Now that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty seems to be searching for new leadership, the ‘secret love affair’ between India and Israel has come out in the open. After all, both nations were founded in the heydays of post-colonialism. Despite their public posturing, both nations stand to gain from the new alignment taking shape in the Asian Pacific region.

As China and Russia seem to be aligning with Pakistan, Israel and the U.S. may lean towards India.

According to Bruce Riedel at Brookings, a long time South Asia expert, “This past January, when President Barack Obama traveled to India to watch the Republic Day parade in New Delhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, the country’s strong man, was in China meeting his counterparts. The geopolitics of Asia was on vivid display. The region’s dual axes and their evolving relationships — India and America on the one hand, and Pakistan and China on the other — will be central to the global order in our times.”

The emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Vietnam, are also calling for greater action by India in the South China Sea.

The veteran diplomat, humanist and social thinker, Dr. Karan Singh, disclosed in a recent interview, he was “impressed by PM Modi’s foreign diplomacy thus far.” He seems to have covered the globe with alacrity without any faux pas. Yet, Modi’s attempt to lay all blame at the doorstep of the Congress Party for India’s international decline under the previous government’s second term, according to Dr. Singh, is “unnecessarily partisan and divisive.”

Another critic and well-known political psychologist, Ashis Nandy, said in a recent interview, PM Modi “has not done much harm in maintaining the status quo” and has been surprisingly well-received on the global stage. Nandy added, “the long term effects of Modi’s actions are hard to predict within a year.”

While the well-known veteran columnist and BJP insider, Arun Shourie, has been criticizing the Modi government for the lack of a cohesive policy and vision, there is no doubt that PM Modi has opened a new path to the West and his openness towards Israel has relegated India’s old posture of non-alignment to the dustbin of history.

Dinesh Sharma is associate research professor at Binghamton University’s Institute for Global Cultural Studies in Binghamton, N.Y. He is the editor of “The Global Obama: Crossroads of Leadership in the 21st Century,” published by Routledge Press. His previous book, “Barack Obama in Hawaii and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President,” was rated as the Top Ten Black History Book for 2012.

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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  • Hussain Saqib

    Russia of today is the successor of
    Soviet empire of yester-years, though reduced to much smaller in size. Russia,
    and then the USSR, which played for centuries the Great
    Game for gaining influence and foothold in Central Asia and get a direct access
    to Kabul finally lost the Game to the West in the battlefields of Afghanistan.
    Along with this defeat, it also lost its imperial glory by ceding a sizable portion
    of its territory to independent Central Asian States. It, however, seems that
    it never gave up its ambitions on Afghanistan; it has been watching with amused
    interest the plight of NATO forces in Afghanistan. It had read the
    writing on the wall and was confident that NATO would not meet a fate different
    from what it itself encountered after a decade-long war of 1980s.

  • Kamath

    Indians can learn extremely important values- a thing or two- from Israelies, that would make country prosperous. It is hard work and dedication in the interest of.society . Israel such a little tidily country has excelled in so many walks of life: science, technology, arts, literature, infrastructure, agriculture etc…and yet has remained a democracy amidst countries in M.East which have been vowing for the past 7 decades to wipe out Israel.

    What is so holy about then so called non-alignment philosophy?

  • rais

    I like non-alignment as it frees the country from being too invested in international issues than it wants to, allowing it to do what it feels best for itself (especially as what it wants can change according to what the electorate wants every election). Unlike Israel, India seldom needs a stronger big brother to back it up as it is a rather strong country to begin with (the only country it might need help fight is China). Economically, its problems are more due to its protectionist and socialist approach (and endemic corruption) than nonalignment (I don’t see Pakistan doing any better allying with China and US). I’d say the problem India faced with non-alignment was the previous Indian leaders who took a purist approach to view isolationism as the only acceptable path.

  • Laura Enright

    I think there has to be an even approach as India takes its place among the leading countries in the world. Isolationism is never a good thing, especially in this time when so much takes place on a global scale thanks to technology. And India should have a voice at the table. Severe isolationism is what helped do the Soviet Union in. However, as the US has been learning the past two decades, giving too much away in an effort to appease capitalists (most of whom will probably show more loyalty to their money than they do to India) will only end up biting them in the behind. Once it’s apparent how much capitalists can profit from advances in science, technology, infrastructure etc., they will do so no matter the cost to India (Along the lines of the British profiting off Indian tea fields and pocketing the profit with very little flowing back to the Indians picking the tea leaves) unless some form of protectionism (especially in the form of tariffs) is put into play to safeguard the interests of all Indians.

  • Andre

    Successful agriculture in semi-arid and arid areas stand out even of Israel’s many contributions to the world. I remember with affection the year I worked in remote Madhya Pradesh and saw the struggle of the people to grow something. I think that open cooperation and friendship with Israel can dramatically improve life in India

  • mulga mumblebrain

    Israel has been providing expertise in raising militia death-squads (like the late South Lebanese Army) to terrorise supporters of the Naxalites, and in the unending suppression of restless Moslem populations in Kashmir, drawing on its decades’ of experience in grinding the Palestinians down through mass torture, extra-judicial murder and imprisonment and general terror. The poisonous influence of the Indian ‘community’ in the USA is apparent.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    You’re forgeting the perfection of mass torture, the bombing of defenceless human beings and the raising of jihadist death-squads as other Israeli ‘achievements’. Not to forget that Israel is a world-leader in micturating on International Law, ethnic cleansing and contempt for UN decisions. And Israel is also a leader in drug production, particularly ecstasy and the like, the blood diamonds trade, human sex trafficking, human organ trafficking and pornography. And who can forget Israel’s ‘contributions’ to sanctions busting with Apartheid South Africa, its old friend and ally, and their joint research on nuclear weapons and biowarfare.

  • Paul Kekai Manansala

    I think Non-Alignment 2.0 can last so long as the BJP is in power. If Congress-I takes over, the pendulum could swing back the other way.

    The US may be ready to cozy up to the BJP so long as the party can keep a lid on religious tensions. Russia seems almost forced to align with China in its efforts to stave off NATO and the US. New Delhi will may a hard time continuing to buy Russian weapons in the face of this new relationship. Israel comes closest to Russia in the West in providing low cost but effective military hardware.

  • Andre

    Dear mulga, are you mumblebrain or deadbrain? One example in front of the lies you parroted: in 1948 less than 200 thousand Arabs were left in Israel, today 1.5 million Arabs enjoy better life and more rights than in any Arab countries – an ethnic cleansing indeed…

  • Andre

    careful, mumblebrain is an automatic distorter. I gave one example in front of the lies he parrots: in 1948 less than 200 thousand Arabs were left in Israel, today more than 1.5 million of them enjoy better life and more rights in Israel than in any Arab countries – and that is what mumblebrain calls ‘grinding down’ …

  • Andre

    Laura, I agree that India should have a voice at the table. However, for this too, mass poverty must be eased. Agree also that it is better not to fully appease capitalists, particularly those who won’t let their profit flowing back to the Indians. Cooperation with Israel can be particularly fit for India, because Israel’s primary export is knowledge, know-how, and like for agriculture in arid areas, the fruits literally remain there,

  • mulga mumblebrain

    The universally accepted toll of Zionist expulsions, ethnic cleansing and massacre during the carefully planned (Plan Dalet) Nakbah was 700,000. Keep up the lying-it suits you and your type, perfectly.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    I noted above that you are lying by 500,000 in your spurious figures of Palestinian expulsions during the Nakbah. That’s equivalent, of course, to saying that the Nazis killed two million Jews during the Shoah, but some Holocaust denials are more acceptable than others. Arab Israelis face widespread prejudice, hatred, discrimination and at least fifty specific laws guaranteeing second-class citizenship, plus the definition by Netanyahoo of Israel as a ‘Jewish’ rather than democratic, state.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    Israel’s greatest specialties are in surveillance, oppression, military slaughter of defenceless civilians (plus sundries like human organ trafficking, sex trafficking, pornography etc). Indeed it is arguable that Israel maintains its brutal occupation in part to use it as a test-bed for new horror weapons and the technique and technology of grinding captive civilian populations into the dust, which they apparently see as a real ‘growth market’ in the future.

  • Jack Temujin

    If India is stupid enough to align herself with the dying evil empires of the Judeo-West, Kali will rejoice and eagerly wait for their arrival in his domain.

  • Andre

    Please, read before you write! I do accept your data of 700 thousand Arabs were leaving Israel, therefore only “200 thousand were left in Israel” – and today they are above 1.5 million. That is, the Israelis have cleansed them upwards! Got it? (in the same time 850 thousand Jews were expelled from the Arab countries, most live in Israel today and have built a new life instead of whining forever like you do, my poor mumble-brain-dead.

  • Andre

    Today India is I think the largest weapon importer on earth. I believe Tata and others could learn to produce hardware, and you could buy the best and least costly know-how and electronics from Israel. But I still think as I commented, that Israeli agricultural know-how for arid areas could be India’s most life-changing import from there.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    Fair enough. I misunderstood your 200,000 as the number before the savage ethnic cleansing of 700,000 in the Nakbah. As is well known Ben-Gurion was outraged that any Arabs remained at all when the Arab Armies finally intervened to stop the expulsions and ethnic cleansing. I do like the chutzpah of arguing that Israel not committing genocide, yet, against the Palestinians is the sign of some virtue. The Arab Israelis are, as everyone knows, second class citizens negatively affected by fifty or so discriminatory laws, and open calls are frequent, not just from Israel’s burgeoning ranks of outright racists and fascists, but from Cabinet members like the notorious Ayelet Shaked, for genocide of the Palestinian people.
    As for the Jews who left Arab countries, many went voluntarily, ordered to do so by Ben-Gurion et al. Others were, indeed, expelled, by mobs, with Government complicity sometimes, in revenge for the Nakbah, and, no doubt, to loot the Jews’ property, garnered over the years by the usual means. That of course was wrong, even evil, but comprehensible given the Nakbah. Many Jews who were reluctant to leave, were also stampeded by Mossad false flag attacks.
    The Jews in Israel have prospered thanks to the theft of Palestinian land, hundreds of billions in tribute from their captive slave state, the USA, and expertise in many lucrative businesses, like the technology of mass repression, surveillance and murder, (where the captive Palestinians have proved useful guinea-pigs for live-fire vivisection), human organ trafficking, sex trafficking, blood diamond trafficking, drug trafficking, pornography, and weapons, plus numerous more beneficial endeavours. They also benefited from the influx of educated Soviets, Jews and impostors, and direct investment by the hugely wealthy Jewish diaspora. One imagines that most groups would prosper in such circumstances. And of course, Israeli wealth is very unequally distributed, although the Palestinians are kept firmly at the bottom.