As Modi visit approaches, Israel and India seem closer than ever

India went on to fight three further wars against Pakistan, in 1965, 1971 and 1999, while Israel has fought 10 more wars.
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As Israel has emerged recently on the world stage, its foreign relationships have blossomed. Donald Trump will be visiting Israel at the end of the month. Bibi Netanyahu has visited Russian leader Vladimir Putin five times in less than two years and speaks to him frequently on the phone. Netanyahu  recently went on a tour of four African nations.  Israel is working closely with Sunni Arabs that share their hatred and fear of Iran.

Yet, while all these events are  important, there is another event that may be  even more important in the long run–the visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel in July.The Prime Minister is, significantly, visiting  only Israel and skipping the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And it follows on the visit to Israel last January by Indian Foreign Minister Shushma Swaraj.

India and Israel surprisingly have much in common. Both became independent of British colonial masters at nearly the same time, India in 1947 and Israel in 1948. Both were initially Third World countries. Their dominant group–Indian Hindus and Israeli Jews– had to fight bitter wars of independence against Islamic enemies (Pakistan and Sunni Arabs). India went on to fight three  further wars  against Pakistan in 1965, 1971 and 1999 while Israel has fought ten more wars. And Both countries, too,  have many who speak English well.

Both countries were founded by English speaking socialists, Jawaharlal Nehru and David Ben Gurion. They are the only two of 140 newly independent states since World War II to be democracies from their inception until today. India was the rare country that never practiced anti-Semitism  and there was no clash between Judaism and Hinduism. Both have advanced from a socialist start to greater integration into the world’s global neo-capitalist economy.

Israeli and Indian emigres to the United States do well and often work together. Recent polls show that more Indians (58%) like Israel than Americans (56%). Both are global minorities that fight to save their homelands in which they have strong majorities (75%-85%).

Today they both face  threats from their Islamic enemies. India faces Pakistan with 100 nuclear weapons  (and likely more in the future) while Israel faces Iran, which is working on becoming a nuclear power. Both India and Israel have around 100 nuclear weapons. Neither country has ever seen the other as a threat.

The dominant Indian Hindus and  Israeli Jews in the two states  face a significant Muslim minority at home and practice religions that are not common in the rest of the world. Their minorities, 150 million Indian Muslims in India and 1.7 million Muslims in Israel, pose major issues for each country.

Both are creative countries with significant hi-tech power (Indian Bangalore and Hyderabad and Israeli Silicon Wadi). Since India recognized Israel in 1992 relations have grown steadily warmer. Today their trade is 4 billion dollars a year and Israel is a major arms supplier to India. India’s economy, which is growing over 7% a year, is that of  a newly industrializing state  with 2.5 trillion dollars GDP. It is the #6 economy in the world while Israel’s economy is at over 300 billion dollars.

The Indians are interested in possibly creating a 15 billion dollar free trade zone with Israel. This would provide India extensive access to one of the world’s top 5 High Tech powers, First World economies ($38,000 GNP/capita) and leader in modern agriculture. For Israel it would create a mass market (1.3 billion people) that little Israel (8.5 million people) lacks. The Economist several years ago proclaimed  that India may pass China as the world’s #1 economy in several decades.

In the military arena, as the #8 power in the world and possessing highly advanced anti-missile missiles Israel could be a good counterbalance to hostile Muslim countries.

Back in the 1950s David Ben Gurion, bemoaning a hostile inner circle, proclaimed that the outer circle might support Israel. He named the Shah’s Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia  as countries that might support Israel. Ben Gurion would be shocked to learn that in the 2010s the Islamic Republic of Iran was Israel’s leading enemy and Turkey under Erdogyan was often hostile.

But, he would be thrilled and astounded to learn that a huge country like India might take their place in the outer circle. Only time will tell but India may well turn out to be one of Israel’s closest friends, bound by common enemies and common aspirations in the 21st century.

As Modi visit approaches, Israel and India seem closer than ever

India went on to fight three further wars against Pakistan, in 1965, 1971 and 1999, while Israel has fought 10 more wars.
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Jonathan Adelman

Dr. Jonathan Adelman, a full professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, has written and edited 12 books since receiving his Ph.D. from Columbia University. His recent book from Routledge in London, The Rise of Israel: A History of a Revolutionary State, has been well received. Having taught at Hebrew University and the University of Haifa, he was invited this past summer for talks at both the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Professor Adelman has an extensive international experience. He has been an Honorary Professor at both Peking University and People’s University in Beijing and visited China 17 times. In November, he will give talks for the American Embassy in Beijing and Shanghai to think-tanks of the Chinese government. He taught at the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow, Central European University in Budapest and People’s University in Beijing. He founded and ran both the China Center and the Israel Center at the University of Denver for four years.

Professor Adelman has extensive experience with the American government. In September of 2008 he briefed the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel on northeast Asia security issues. As Condi Rice’s doctoral dissertation adviser, he occasionally briefed the Secretary of State on international issues. Since 1988, the State Department sent Professor Adelman on 15 international speaking tours to countries ranging from Japan, China, and India to Russia, Germany and Spain.

In the 1980’s he served for eight years as a Senior Scientist working for SAIC on contracts on the Soviet military for the Defense Department.

Professor Adelman has lectured at universities ranging from Harvard, Columbia and Cambridge, to the Air War College and Chinese National Defense University (Beijing).

Read all stories by Jonathan Adelman