India and Israel – Brothers in Arms

Flags - India and Israel

Flags – India and Israel

Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi visits Israel from July 4-6 at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, making him the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Jewish homeland. This historic moment is part of India’s modernisation, both in terms of the economy and foreign policy.

Indian Soldiers and the Battle of Haifa

During the Battle of Haifa, 23 September 1918, Indian soldiers attacked the rearguard forces of the Ottoman Empire that resulted in the capture of the towns of Haifa and Acre.

Three Indian naval ships, destroyer INS Mumbai, frigate INS Trishul and tanker INS Aditya, made a goodwill visit at the Haifa port in May 2017 to mark 25 years of full diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Great Indian politics

The formation of India happened on secular lines, and so does our constitution say, but vote bank politics based on caste and religion were part of Indian political system right from the day we achieved independence. As such, Indian politics always favoured the minority community – although they did nothing for them.

In 1947 Albert Einstein wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru, asking him to support the creation of Israel. Nehru declined, saying “Palestine is essentially an Arab country, and must remain so.”

This was done because of the risk of angering the Indian Muslims, who live in a secular country like India but have a Muslim-centric view of the world.

The Conflict Within

India voted against the Partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission to the United Nations in 1949. But Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar supported the creation of Israel on both moral and political grounds, and condemned India’s vote at the UN against Israel. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar admired Jewish nationalism and believed Palestine was the natural territory of the Jewish people, essential to their aspiration for nationhood.

On 17 September 1950, India officially recognised the State of Israel.  In 1953, Israel was permitted to open a consulate in Bombay (now Mumbai). However, the Nehru government did not want to pursue full diplomatic relations with Israel as it supported the Palestinian cause, and believed that permitting Israel to open an embassy in New Delhi would damage relations with the Arab world.

Till early 1990s, the relationship remained informal in nature. India’s opposition to official diplomatic relations with Israel stemmed from both domestic and foreign considerations. Domestically, politicians in India feared losing the Muslim vote if relations were normalised with Israel. Additionally, India did not want to jeopardise the large amount of its citizens working in Arab States of the Persian Gulf, who were helping India maintain its foreign-exchange reserves. India’s domestic need for energy was another reason for the lack of normalisation of ties with Israel, in terms of safeguarding the flow of oil from Arab nations.

India’s tilt towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and India’s desire to counter Pakistan’s influence over the Arab states was another reason why we maintained distance from Israel.

Change of Policy

India formally established relations with Israel in January 1992 and ties between the two nations have flourished since, primarily due to common strategic interests and security threats. The formation of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which allegedly neglected the sentiments of Indian Muslims, and the blocking of India by Pakistan from joining the OIC is the major cause for this diplomatic shift.

Help, Partnership and Beyond

  • War with Pakistan

Israel offered unconditional help to India during the 1971 and 1999 Kargil war.

  • Missile Technology

In September 2016, tests were conducted of the jointly developed Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile with a range of 70 km, intended to equip three guided-missile destroyers of the Indian Navy.

India successfully tested the Israeli-made SPYDER quick-reaction surface-to-air missile in May 2017. The Indian Air Force is planning to deploy this system on its western border.

  • Agriculture

In 2008, Israel and India finalised an agricultural plan introducing crops native to the Middle East and Mediterranean to India, with a focus on olives. Subsequently, around 112,000 olive trees were planted in the desert of Rajasthan. In 2014, more than 100 tonnes of olives were produced in Rajasthan.

An Indo-Israel agriculture action plan for 2015-18 is operational, and 15 of the proposed 26 centres of excellence in agriculture are being developed in India with Israel’s help to showcase the latest technology to Indian farmers.

  • Water Management

On June 28, 2017, the union cabinet approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Israel on the National Campaign for Water Conservation in India.

Technologically-adept Israel has developed water-management technologies, located as it is in a semi-arid region with limited sources of fresh drinking water.

  • Trade

As of 2014, India is the third-largest Asian trade partner of Israel, and tenth-largest trade partner overall. India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the second-largest defence supplier to India.

  • Space

In 2002, India and Israel signed a cooperative agreement promoting space collaboration between both nations.

In 2003, the Israel Space Agency, ISA, expressed interest in collaborating with ISRO, in using satellites for improved management of land and other resources.

In 2005, Israel decided to launch TecSAR, its first synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite, on India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, or PSLV

In 2009, India successfully launched RISAT-2, a synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite. RISAT-2 was manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, or IAI, in conjunction with ISRO. The launch of the RISAT-2 satellite aimed to provide India with greater earth observation power, which would improve disaster management, and increase surveillance and defence capabilities. The acquisition and subsequent launch of the RISAT-2 satellite was accelerated after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, to boost India’s future surveillance capabilities.

  • Tourism

Around 40,000 Israelis, many of whom have just finished military service, visit India annually. There are dozens of Chabad-operated community centres in India, where many Israelis celebrate holidays and observe religious traditions. Popular destinations for Israelis include Goa, the Himalayas, Old Manali, Vashisht, Naggar, Kasol, and the villages surrounding Dharamsala. In many of these areas, Hebrew signs on businesses and public transportation are widely noticeable.

  • Judaism in India

The history of the Jewish people in India dates back to ancient times. Judaism was one of the first foreign religions to arrive in India in recorded history

An estimated 85,000 Jews of Indian-origin live in Israel, the majority being from Maharashtra (Bene Israelis), with some from Kerala (Cochini Jews) and Kolkata (Baghdadi Jews).

  • Moshe Holtzberg

Moshe Holtzberg had survived the 26/11 carnage at the age of two, having lost his parents to the terror attack on the Nariman House. Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who was five months pregnant, were killed during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks by Pakistani Islamic terrorists. Their two-year-old son Moshe survived the attack after being rescued by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel.

India and Israel are ‘brothers in arms’, we are both surrounded by hostile neighbours and have been at the receiving end of radical Islamic terror. We both face an existential threat from forces within and outside our community. Sharing information and technology will not only bring peace and prosperity in our respective countries but in the world at-large, and this is what makes us natural partners. The visit of Indian Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi to Israel is historic and has the potential to take Indo-Israeli ties to a new high. Shalom.

The Lesser Known Indian Tribes

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India is a country full of fascinating cultural diversity, it has more to offer than one can experience in one lifetime. There are numerous tribes following and preserving their distinct culture and traditions, that has been practiced by their ancestors since time immemorial. Below is the list of seven lesser known tribes of India and a few lines about them.

  1. Bnei Menashe

They claim to be the descendants of the lost Israeli tribes who came to Manipur after being exiled from their motherland when it was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 772 BC. In the 19th century they were converted to Christianity, but in the late 20th century, their claims of being descendants of the Israel’s exiled tribes were finally confirmed by a rabbi from Israel. They then converted back to their original religion.

  1. Sentinelese

This is one of the most elusive tribe in the world. They have no desire of mixing with the rest of the world, and become extremely hostile when an outsider tries to break into their sanctity of elusiveness. Several attempts to establish contacts with them have been made, which were responded by arrows and javelin causing injuries and deaths. Today, the indigenous tribe of Andaman, enjoys complete autonomy with the occasional patrols from the Indian government.

  1. Chenchus

This tribe lives in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Odisha. They are still dependent on forests and do not cultivate land but hunt for a living. Non-tribe people living among them rent land from the them and pay them a portion of the harvest. These allow a man or a woman to marry without any parental pressure. Widow remarriage is also not a very big deal for them.

  1. Bishnoi

This tribe of Rajasthan were the original environmental conversationalists of India. In the year 1730, 363 Bishnoi men and women sacrificed their lives to save trees from being cut down by the king of Jodhpur. The Bishnoi community have dug up wells, cultivated vegetation and made the land liveable with their bare hands, where they lead a peaceful and simple life.

  1. Siddi

This tribe is scattered all over India and Pakistan and owes its origin to Southeast Africa. They came to India around 700 A.D as slaves of Arab and Portuguese merchants. Goma, a dance and music form of the African Bantu tribe is still practised by the Siddi tribe in parts of Gujarat where it’s called Dhamaal.

  1. Muria

The Muria tribe is from Chhattisgarh. Traditionally they are economically homogenous and strive to work as a collective. They have mixed-sex dormitories where adolescents are sent to practice premarital sex, sometimes with a single partner and sometimes serially. They have an omnivorous diet, with liquor playing a key role in their society.

  1. Drokpa

They live in Ladakh and are believed to be the descendants of the soldiers of Alexander who came down to India in 327 BC. Drokpas do not marry out of their community to preserve their ethnicity. Dressed magnificently in luscious fur coats and flower pots that sets them apart from the rest of the tribes in the region. They are open about pre-marital sex, polygamy, polyandry and public display of affection are also known to consider wife swapping as a part of their culture and tradition.

United Nations – Four speeches and a Fight

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Background

On 24th of October 1945 and as a replacement to the ineffective League on Nations, United Nations (UN) was established in New York, United States. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.

Since its formation UN has resolved many issues, probably created a few. But nevertheless, it has always provided a platform to its member states to share their concerns, suggestions and achievements with the rest of the world.

4 + 1 UN moments

Everyone has their own favorites. Here’s my list of 4 crazy speeches and 1 fist fight, that took place inside the UN.

1. Chavez knows how the devil smells

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Year: 2006

Quote: “The devil came here yesterday, and it smells of sulfur still.”

The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, who always enjoyed the spotlight that the UN General Assembly provided, once compared the US President, George W. Bush, to Satan.

2. Ahmadinejad hates the Zionists

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Year: 2008

Quote: “The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad primarily used the UN as a platform to preach Shiite religious teachings and release his pent-up frustration against the Western powers, especially his arch-enemy Israel. In this speech he accused “the Zionist entity” of an array of crimes including causing the South Ossetia war.

3. Qaddafi finally speaks, and there is no stopping.

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Year: 2009

Quote: “It should not be called a security council, it should be called a terror council.”

After 40 years in power, the Libyan Leader Qaddafi spoke in the United Nations for the very first, and he made up for all the lost time. He spoke for 100 minutes, during which he made sure to put forward all his grievances, accused the United States for developing swine flu, and compared the UN Security Council to Al-Qaeda, among other things.

4.  The Turks were literally throwing their weight around.

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Year: 2011

The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded to go inside the assembly hall when the Palestinian President Abbas was about to declare request for statehood. The Turkish security tried to go through the wrong exit door, and there was a fist fight between the UN security personnel and Turkish.

5. Pakistan’s peacekeeping efforts.

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Year: 2016

Quote: “Pakistan’s unwavering commitment to the UN is well established. We have played a pioneering and consistent role in UN Peacekeeping.”

Ahead of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech, two US lawmakers introduced legislation in the US Congress aimed at designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.

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