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The Hard Trek To Mount Of Olives

It has taken 25 years for India to break out of its moral duplicity regarding Israel. West Asia has changed, so have Indian priorities that demand realpolitik.

The Hard Trek To Mount Of Olives
Warmth Personified | Photograph by PTI
The Hard Trek To Mount Of Olives
outlookindia.com
2017-07-08T11:19:04+05:30

Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel from July 4-6 is a first by an Indian head of government. Israeli premier Benjamin Neta­nyahu flew down from Jerusalem, breaking protocol, to warmly receive Modi. It culminates a process that began 25 years ago, when P.V. Narasimha Rao recalibrated Indian foreign policy to the post-Cold War world. It would be useful to capture the evolution of bilateral relations.

In 1991, when Rao assumed office, he faced an empty treasury, a limping economy and India’s all-weather friend, the Soviet Union, imploding. Post the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world moved from a bipolar balance to US hegemony. Francis Fukuyama declared the end of history, implying victory of the Western liberal order. The US’ 1991 intervention in the Gulf, to successfully eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, confirmed the new unipolar global order. It then turned to settle the lingering Israel-Palestine dispute. The Madrid Peace Conference was jointly convened by the US and Russia on October 30-Nov­ember 1, 1991. Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine were invited to participate and engage with Israel. For the first time, Palestinians sat face-to-face with Israelis, albeit as part of the Jordanian delegation.

PM Narasimha Rao began reshaping not only the Indian economy but India’s foreign policy too. Imp­roving relations with the US was a pre-condition to his success. The US conveyed that post the Madrid Conference, invitees to the political sub-group meeting, to be chaired by US, needed diplomatic ties with all participants. India, historical cheerleader for Pal­estinian rights, could not attend even as an observer without full diplomatic ties with Israel. Sometime in October-November, when I was director (West Asia and North Africa), Foreign Secretary J.N. Dixit’s office sought drafting of a cabinet...

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