There is no going back from here on

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There is no going back from here on

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Israel has fostered an already strong relationship between India and Israel

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to Israel has been important and historic. Significantly, the visit coincided with India and Israel celebrating the silver jubilee of their diplomatic relations. Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, although he visited Tel Aviv earlier when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Though it was in 1992 when India and Israel established full diplomatic relations, no Indian President or Prime Minister had visited Israel before now. In 2003, Ariel Sharon, the then Prime Minister of Israel, visited India. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit New Delhi. It was Sharon who entered into bilateral trade and defence relations with India. The credit, therefore, goes entirely to him.

New beginning to bilateral ties: The ruling dispensations of both countries share a common philosophy on ‘nationalism'. Besides, the two nations have many things in common. All of these hold the promise of a better and strengthened relationship between India and Israel. India, under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, for his pronounced pro-Muslim leanings, had in 1949, voted against Israel for its inclusion in the United Nations Organisation (UNO). But later, Israel was admitted in the UNO. The very next year, India had to recognise Israel as a sovereign nation. It was the beginning of a relationship between India and Israel. India officially recognised Israel on September 15, 1950. In 1951, Israel opened its first consulate office in Bombay, now Mumbai. But India could not open a consulate office in Israel. It took more than 40 years to establish full diplomatic offices between India and Israel and appoint Ambassadors in New Delhi and Tel Aviv. Israel's Embassy in India was opened in 1992 and was located at the Barakhamba Road.

Arab World and Indian Muslims: Israel has maintained a sustained position as a true friend of India over the years. Although in the past, India stood with the Gulf countries, but it did not get the desired reciprocal favours from the Arab world. Gulf countries have always supported Pakistan vis-à-vis India. However, there is ostensible change an the policy and attitude of Arab countries after the visit of Prime Minister Modi to those countries in recent past. Even Saudi Arabia is working on secret channels to establish ties with Israel.

The Muslim factor: It is not an old story when India evaded establishing closer ties with Israel, fearing Muslim backlash at home. Under the appeasement policy of the successive Congress Governments, for the Muslim population of the country, India sacrificed its diplomatic interests. Congress and the Left parties are squarely to be blamed for this lopsided diplomacy. Supply of crude oil from the Gulf was another reason for a cool approach to Israel. But we did it at the cost of ignoring our national interests. We stood with Arab countries who supported and provided financial and other aides to Pakistan.

Neglecting the Jews: When our national interests were being undermined to appease the Muslims of the country, nobody bothered to care for the interests of the Jews living in India. There are 6,000 Jews living in India today who have been living in this country for centuries. In the decisive battle with Pakistan in 1971 that created Bangladesh, the hero of the battle field was Lt Gen JFR Jacob. He was an Indian Jew who was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Command of the Indian Army. Field Marshal Gen Sam Manekshaw was the Chief of Army Staff then. Lt Gen Jacob's role in the war was heroic. I wonder why we did not care to give importance to the Jews in India. May be because of Congress' appeasement policy for the Muslims. The 1971 war with Pakistan was also historic for making largest number of Pakistani Armed forces surrender before the Indian Army and making them prisoners of war.

Steps towards cooperation: Now both India and Israel are inching forward towards a better relationship. Finance Minister of Israel, Moshe Yalun, said during his visit to India recently about the role of Israel in the field of defense supply to India. India has signed a number of Memorandum of Understandings with Israel in the field of agriculture, technology, defence, research and economy. In the field of micro irrigation projects, States like Harayana, Gujarat and Maharashtra stand to benefit largely from Israeli technology.

A friend in need: Israel stood with India when we badly needed support at the time of war. It helped us even during the war of 1965 and 1971 that we fought with Pakistan. During the Kargil aggression too Israel helped India and reinforced our Army with supply of arms and ammunitions. It is indeed, India’s friend in need.

(The writer is Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha)

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