Israel is playing a big role in India’s escalating conflict with Pakistan – South Asia Journal


Signing up to the ‘war on terror’ – especially ‘Islamist terror’ – may seem natural for two states built on colonial partition whose security is threatened by Muslim neighbours

By Robert Fisk

February 28, 2019 “Information Clearing House” -When I
heard the first news report, I assumed it was an Israeli air raid on Gaza. Or Syria. Airstrikes on a “terrorist camp” were
the first words. A “command and control centre” destroyed, many “terrorists”
killed. The military was retaliating for a “terrorist attack” on its troops, we
were told.

An Islamist “jihadi” base
had been eliminated. Then I heard the name Balakot and realised that it was neither
in Gaza, nor in Syria – not even in Lebanon – but in Pakistan. Strange thing, that. How could
anyone mix up Israel and India?

Well, don’t let the idea
fade away. Two thousand five hundred miles separate the Israeli ministry of
defence in Tel Aviv from the Indian ministry of defence in New Delhi, but
there’s a reason why the usual cliche-stricken agency dispatches
sound so similar.

For months, Israel has
been assiduously lining itself up alongside India’s nationalist BJP
 in an unspoken – and politically dangerous –
“anti-Islamist” coalition, an unofficial, unacknowledged alliance, while India
itself has now become the largest weapons market for the
Israeli arms trade

Not by chance, therefore,
has the Indian press just trumpeted the fact that Israeli-made Rafael
Spice-2000 “smart bombs” were used by the Indian air force in its strike
against Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) “terrorists” inside Pakistan.

Like many
Israeli boasts of hitting similar targets, the Indian adventure into Pakistan
might owe more to the imagination than military success. The “300-400
terrorists” supposedly eliminated by the Israeli-manufactured and
Israeli-supplied GPS-guided bombs may turn out to be little more than rocks and

But there was nothing
unreal about the savage ambush of Indian troops in Kashmir on 14 February which
the JeM claimed, and which left 40 Indian soldiers dead. Nor the shooting
down of at least one Indian jet this week.

India was Israel’s largest
arms client in 2017, paying £530m for Israeli air defence, radar systems
and ammunition, including air-to-ground missiles – most of them tested during
Israel’s military offensives against Palestinians and targets in Syria.

Israel itself is trying to
explain away its continued sales of tanks, weapons and boats to the Myanmar military dictatorship – while
western nations impose sanctions on the government which has attempted to
destroy its minority and largely Muslim Rohingya people. But Israel’s arms trade
with India is legal, above-board and much advertised by both sides.

The Israelis have filmed
joint exercises between their own “special commando” units and those sent by
India to be trained in the Negev desert, again with all the expertise supposedly learned by Israel in
 and other civilian-thronged battlefronts.

At least 16 Indian “Garud”
commandos – part of a 45-strong Indian military delegation – were for a time
based at the Nevatim and Palmachim air bases in Israel. In
his first visit to India last year – preceded by a trip to Israel by
nationalist Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Israeli PM
Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the 2008 Islamist attacks on Mumbai in
which almost 170 civilians were killed. “Indians and Israelis know too well the
pain of terrorist attacks,” he told Modi. “We
remember the horrific savagery of Mumbai. We grit our teeth, we fight back, we
never give in.” This was also BJP-speak.

Several Indian
commentators, however, have warned that right-wing Zionism and right-wing
nationalism under Modi should not become the foundation stone of the
relationship between the two countries, both of which – in rather different
ways – fought the British empire.

researcher Shairee Malhotra, whose work has appeared in the Israeli
newspaper Haaretz, has
pointed out that India has the world’s third largest Muslim population after
Indonesia and Pakistan – upward of 180 million people. “The India-Israel
relationship is also commonly being framed in terms of a natural convergence of
ideas between their ruling BJP and Likud parties,” she wrote last year.

Hindu nationalists had
constructed “a narrative of Hindus as historically victims at the hands of
Muslims”, an attractive idea to those Hindus who recall partition and the
continuing turbulent relationship with Pakistan.

In fact,
as Malhotra pointed out in Haaretz, “Israel’s biggest
fans in India appear to be the ‘internet Hindus’ who primarily love Israel
for how it deals with Palestine and fights Muslims.”

Malhotra has
condemned Carleton University professor Vivek Dehejia for
demanding a “tripartite” alliance between India, Israel and the US – since they
have all suffered “from the scourge of Islamic terrorism”.

In fact, by the end of
2016, only 23 men from India had
left to fight for Isis in the Arab
world, although Belgium, with a population of only half a million Muslims,
produced nearly 500 fighters.

Malhotra’s argument
is that the Indian-Israeli relationship should be pragmatic rather than

But it is difficult to see
how Zionist nationalism will not leach into Hindu nationalism when Israel is
supplying so many weapons to India – the latest of which India, which has
enjoyed diplomatic relations with Israel since 1992, has already used against
Islamists inside Pakistan.

Signing up to the “war on
terror” – especially “Islamist terror” – may seem natural for two states built
on colonial partition whose security is threatened by Muslim neighbours.

In both cases, their
struggle is over the right to own or occupy territory. Israel, India and
Pakistan all possess nuclear weapons. Another good reason not to let Palestine
and Kashmir get tangled up together. And to leave India’s 180 million Muslims

This article was originally published by “The Independent ” –


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