Why Israel Is Important
Dealing with Israel and Iran—belligerents who are daggers drawn over issues old and new—and pursuing “strategic partnerships” with both, has never been easy for India. Since last month’s terror attack on an Israeli official’s car in Delhi, which the Israelis believe to be the handiwork of the Iranians, India has been walking the diplomatic tightrope. But the recent arrest of Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi, an Indian journalist working for the Iranian national news agency IRNA, and arrest warrants issued against three Iranians, who’d visited Delhi at the time, for their involvement in the attack, has complicated matters further for the Indian foreign policy establishment.
On Thursday evening, members of the investigating team briefed senior MEA officials about their findings—obviously, everyone is keenly aware of the possible diplomatic ramifications. “It definitely introduces a wrinkle in our relations with Iran and can slow down our engagement with Tehran,” says former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal.
The MEA’s cautious approach, in the light of these complexities, is understandable. However, this is not to say that Iran has been taken off the list of suspects; rather, it puts back the onus on the leadership in Tehran to convince New Delhi that it had nothing to do with it.
“The current Iranian government has shown serious weaknesses in its handling of crisis situations and that has a lot to do with the fractured domestic politics in the country,” says Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, author of A Meta History of the Clash Of Civilizations, who teaches in SOAS, London. “But close relations with India have been pivotal to the Iranian state, and any deterioration will be seen with serious concern,” he adds.
What precludes an easy Indo-Iranian compact even more, however, is India’s extremely important ties with Israel. The two are not only strategic partners but with each passing day their cooperation has been expanding from the field of defence, security and intelligence-sharing to agriculture, hi-tech, tourism and food security. For Israel, India is a crucial market; for India, Israel remains a valuable partner with which it can develop joint projects on various sectors.
In addition, the West Asian region is of immense strategic importance to India. Other than being its main source for energy, nearly six million Indians live and work there. The remittance of over $20 billion that flows in every year not only helps in taking care of a substantial portion of India’s oil bill, it also helps run a number of families across the country. Peace and stability in the region is of vital importance to India—any sign of unrest has a negative impact on the supply of oil, causing energy prices to soar, and making it difficult for India to maintain its current rate of growth.
Discerning sections in Israel, however, are regarding the proceedings with a little scepticism. “Nobody in Israel will be surprised to hear that Iran stands behind the attack and nobody will be surprised to hear that Iran has nothing to do with it,” says historian and commentator Tom Segev. He adds, “Terrorism and counter-terrorism have their mysterious ways”.
But others see the Delhi attack case as a side-story to the bigger one that is being enacted in West Asia under angry war clouds. Israel has been threatening to use unilateral military action to stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear programme, rejecting Iran’s rationalisation that it is for peaceful purposes. Segev says there is a lively debate on the issue, but points out that most Israelis are of the view that rather than Israel, it will be better if the Americans take the initiative to stop Iran from going nuclear.
But why is the Israel-Iran showdown being played out in the Indian theatre?
Adib-Moghaddam reasons the Netanyahu government in Israel is spoiling for a war with Iran, though this idea has been rebuffed by the US and the EU, who aren’t keen on a war in West Asia at this juncture. “The Israelis are aware that terrorism charges weigh heavily and that this could be used as a casus belli to sell another war,” argues Adib-Moghaddam. In short, there’s a less simple causative link that can be drawn between the attack in Delhi and West Asian politics. India may be aware of all this but will be careful before deciding who to blame for bringing the crisis on its soil. A conflict there can singe it badly.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
India is becoming a great nation to carry out attacks. The security apparatus is impotent to handle or prevent any attacks. It is pity people quickly forget such incidents. More to come !!
This is a much better (and proffessional) take on Israeli envoy attack by Pranay Sharma compared to the pathetic, biased & third rate piece by Debarshi Dasgupta & Chandrani Banerjee about journalist Kasmi's arrest elsewhere in Outlook.
Very good analysis from Pranay Sharma. Let me add some more important aspects in respect of relation with Iran.
1.Iran is a legitimate sovereign state as India is.But Israel has not yet gained that status as many nations except colonial arrogant powers and their stooges in other continents, have not accepted Israel as a legitimate sovereign state.
2.Our relation with Iran is centuries' old and caused useful and colourful cultural exchanges between the two great nations. But what we can say about our relation with Israel, who supply only military equipments. Remember that Zionists are the leading arms producers in the world and they creat rift wherever possible, to sell their arms to both the parties.
3.India is a democratic secular country but Israel a Jewish racist colony with fake democracy. Israel is the only colony which runs the largest open air prison(Gaza) in the world.
4.Iran is perceived as a motive force for democratic changes in present autocratic ME where US & EU have pathetically failed to promote true democracy because of their unequivocal support to the Zionist Apartheid regime in occupied Palestine.Obviously the Islamic Revolution happened in Iran dethroning a US supported despot is the only source of inspiration which caused the on-going beautiful Arab Spring, a historic one. Where is our position in history If India goes the way Israel wants.
5.What we have achieved from the diplomatic ties with Israel since 1992, is something which affects our national unity. The relation with Israel had definitely strengthened Hindutva communal forces, which brought about demolition of worshipping places, massacres and genocide. Is this what we want in future also?
6. Sustainability factor - Iran is more sustainable partner for us than the Jewish state even in terms of technology. Declining hegemony of colonial powers in ME clearly indicates that the Zionist colony can no longer exist in a highly hostile environment created themself.
Furthermore, when India decided to continue purchasing Oil and Gas from Iran evan after we received advice and then threat from arrogant powers, I had expected much bigger attack in Indian soil.
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