This is the first official trip of Netanyahu to India. A country that has a long record of abstaining or voting against Israel on the International arena, especially in cases related to state of Palestine. Netanyahu visit to India comes less than a month after New Delhi voted against the Trump administration’s decision to recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Commenting on India’s vote at the UN, Netanyahu told India Today: “Naturally we were disappointed, but this visit is a testimony that our relationship is moving on so many fronts forwards”.
Prior to his departure to India, Netanyahu said on Twitter the two nations “will sign very many agreements. . We are strengthening ties between Israel and this important global power. This serves our security, economic, trade and tourism interests, as well as many other areas. This is a great blessing for the State of Israel,” he said. Netanyahu arrived India with promises to further cement the relationship and corporation between the two nations. India is currently the biggest buyer of Israeli weapons, spending an average $1bn annually on military equipment in recent years. Last July, on PM Modi’s historical visit to Israel, New Delhi and Tel Aviv signed a $2 Billion defense deal. The two leaders are expected to discuss on bilateral cooperation on areas from defense, technology, agriculture, cyber-security, water management to trade.
Not everyone welcomes Netanyahu:
However, not everyone in India is welcoming Netanyahu. Hundreds of people, predominantly Indian Muslims gathered in central New Delhi to protest Netanyahu’s visit on Monday. The protests were organized by leftist’s parties who condemned Modi’s administration for supporting Israelis expansionist policies and sabotaging any possibility of an independent state of Palestine. Organizers and protestors also clarified that this is the major factor why they oppose India and Israel strengthening their cooperation in military and national security affairs.
Brothers in Ideology?
Nationalist ideology is rooted deep in the Israel establishment and is key driving force in Israeli domestic politics and the stands Tel Aviv take in International affairs. On the other hand, in India, the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has won most national and local elections on a Hindu nationalist agenda, with many prominent party members making anti-Muslim statements, promoting Islamophobia to “win Hindu votes”. Thus, for some analysts, it is not surprising to see significant increase in India-Israeli relation and cooperation since BJP rose to power in 2014. BJP has visibly strengthened India-Israel ties and corporations, however there are areas of conflict of interest, ideology and cooperation which even the BJP is still not in a position to change. In addition to Indians long standing pro-Palestine policy, India also imports most of its oil from Arab countries which Israel consider as hostile nations. India-Arab Nations trade figures are multiple times higher compared to India-Israel trade. India also have close military dealing with Russia, which both Israel and USA consider as hostile nations. “Russia-factor” will remain more sensitive and personal to Israel because of Moscow’s support to Iran, a supposed terrorist nation and biggest threat in the region as per Israeli government statements.