Israelising India: The Hindutva Fantasy that is Realising Itself
August 20, 2019
In many ways, today’s India is fast changing and unrecognisable from just half a decade ago. It is not the case that state repression, attacks on minorities and criminalisation of dissent is new. But the impunity of the state machinery, its forever-ready army of zealot supporters, the breakdown of institutions and the irreversible damage this has brought upon our society is unprecedented. An aspect of our social and political commitment that has been completely reversed at breakneck speed, in the two terms of the Modi-Shah government, is our relationship with Palestine and its freedom struggle. From being seen as one of the forerunners of Palestinian solidarity globally, India has come to be seen as one of Israel’s closest allies. Learning from Israel in what it does to the Palestinian people, admiring the racist, supremacist moorings of Zionism, has been a long-standing feature of Hindutva. And now it is only playing itself out.
This ideological connection has material consequences. Trade agreements between the two countries, especially in the sector of agriculture, have grown by a big margin. Bollywood is being roped in to fight the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The area where India-Israel relations have grown exponentially, and which deserves urgent attention, is arms trade and security cooperation. There are two aspects to this intensifying trade relationship: the sheer volume of the arms trade and security cooperation, and the ideological import of Israeli methods and war doctrines.
Importing Israeli weapons and methods
From 2017-18, India imported nearly 50% of Israel’s weapons exports. Many of these deals are mired in corruption and often pushed at the cost of India’s public sector defence units- starting from the Bofors scam to the on again, off again Spike missile deal. For Israel, these arms purchases directly finance its occupation of Palestinian territories. Israel markets its weapons as “field-tested” on Palestinian bodies. There are reports of how the repression of Palestinians in Gaza, during the Great Return March is already being marketed by Israel’s arms industry. The everyday reality of Palestinians, of living under the barrel of the gun, the checkpoints, home demolitions and raids, the massacres are all bank-rolled by the sale of arms. Israel, in fact, is invested in selling arms to repressive regimes world-over, thereby itself connecting the occupation of Palestinian territories with growing militarism from Latin America to Myanmar.
With India, Israel also has a vast array of security cooperation and joint training. Every year since 2014, prospective IPS officers are being sent to Israel for training. India and Israel have a Joint Steering Committee on counter-terrorism including cybersecurity. Israeli military delegations have visited Kashmir. As of today, everything from guns to surveillance drones that are being used in Kashmir are of Israeli make. As noted by others, Israel never only sells its arms. It also sells along with them its methodology of repression. And the last few months of tension with Pakistan and the ongoing situation in Kashmir are testimony to this.
In February this year, following an attack on a CRPF convoy in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, which led to the death of 40 jawans, tensions between India and Pakistan escalated. India carried out a much hailed attack within the borders of Pakistan, seemingly targeting a terrorist camp. This attack was invoked by the leaders of the BJP in its election rallies, as well as pro-government commentators, for its similarity with Israel’s tactics. The deep linkages with Israel were not only about the rhetoric of this, but also the fact that the Spice-2000 bomb used in the air-strike by the Indian Air Force was of Israeli-make. This escalation between two nuclear armed nations demanded calls for peace and sanity, but the ruling party used it for making “national security” the top issue in its election campaign amidst a floundering economy and unprecedented attacks on minorities. Surely, this paid off for them, given the results of the 2019 General Election results?
On August 5th, Home Minister Amit Shah made the shocking announcement of a Presidential order abrogating Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted relative autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and was the tunnel between the state and India. This included abrogation of Article 35 A, which granted the state legislature the power to make laws regarding residency, employment and land ownership. The autonomy of J&K had been a long-standing grouse of the Sangh Parivar, even though such provisions exist in several other states, because J&K was the only Muslim majority state in India. The next step for the current regime is to bring demographic changes in the region to permanently alter its nature. Even as the region has been under a two-weeks long curfew and communications black-out, the government is inviting private investment, opening the doors for corporate profiteering. This very idea of enforced demographic change is a mirror image of Israel’s settler-colonial policies in the occupied West Bank, where, too, Israeli citizens have built illegal colonies and commercial spaces, apart from the massive military infrastructure, to create “facts on the ground”.
In this moment, it is more necessary than ever to build global solidarity as the regimes ruling us come closer in their methods of repression. Israel’s military occupation is linked to militarism in Kashmir. As democratic and progressive forces gather today to demand peace and justice in Kashmir, and in the rest of India, this struggle must be coordinated to counter the liaison between India and Israel. It must be remembered that this connection has been established over a concoction of arms and ideologies which spells dire consequences for South Asia.
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