NARENDRA MODI ISRAEL”S BEST FRIEND IN SOUTH ASIA

Narendra Modi, the right-wing, pro-Hindu nationalist Prime Minister in waiting , has long courted political and trade links with the state of Israel. Modi’s ties to Israel, which BJP officials strongly endorse, has turned into a financial bonanza for the western Indian province of Gujarat, where he has served as chief minister for the past 13 years.

Under Modi’s leadership and encouragement, Israel has poured billions of dollars of investment into Gujarat.Officials from both Gujarat and Israel have visited each other over the past few years to deepen trade and economic links. Ongoing mutual endeavors include projects in industrial research and development, solar and thermal power, pharmaceuticals, infrastructure, water recycling and water desalination plants.

For example, late last year, India entered into agreements with two consortia including Israel’s Tower Semiconductor Ltd. (NASDAQ: TSEM), also known as “TowerJazz,” IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Silterra Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. of Malaysia and STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM) of Switzerland, for the construction of two semiconductor fabrication plants in India, one near New Delhi, the other in Gujarat, at a total cost of some 634.1 billion rupees ($10.4 billion). India not only generates investment dollars from these deals, but also reduces its dependence on having to import chips.

But this is only one small part of Israel’s ambitious investment plans for India and, in particular, Gujarat state. Israel National News reported that the Jewish State seeks to found an industrial development fund with Gujarat, citing comments made on Indian television by Israel’s consul general in Mumbai, Jonathan Miller. “Gujarat is a business-oriented state and this [memorandum of understanding] will help both Israeli and Gujarat-based companies in developing and strengthening the industrial relationship,” Miller said. “Our focus is on increasing research ties with Gujarat. Israel is keen to increase research and development (R&D) and cultural ties with Gujarat.” Miller added that he also wants India and Israel to sign a free-trade agreement.

A report in The Diplomat from last year postulated that if and when Modi ascends to theprime ministry, India’s ties to Israel will “expand dramatically.” “While it was a Congress [Party] government that established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, it was under a BJP-led government from 1999 to 2004 that Indian ties with the Jewish State blossomed,” The Diplomat report noted. “This period [led] critics to believe that this was not just a security partnership but also a relationship with strong religious and ideological moorings.” Indeed, in January 2013, Modi personally hosted the Israeli ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz in Gujarat to discuss deepening trade ties.

Indeed, the BJP’s hostile rhetoric against Pakistan, and the Islamic world as a whole, has been music to Israel’s ears. In 2003, following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, in a speech before the American Jewish Community in Washington, D.C.,Brajesh Mishra, then India’s national security adviser under the BJP government, called for a trilateral alliance comprising India, Israel and the U.S.to “jointly face the same ugly face of modern-day terrorism,”

But there have been many bumps along the way. In the 1920s, when Indian nationalists agitated for independence from Great Britain, they allied themselves with the Palestinians and strongly opposed Western/Zionist plans to form a Jewish state. Interestingly, the two most famous Indians of the 20th century differed on their views of Israel. Mahatma Gandhi was opposed to the creation of Israel since he did not think a country should be based on religion (paralleling his opposition to the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan). However, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru strongly supported the creation of Israel and was close to several prominent Israelis, including David Ben Gurion, the country’s first prime minister.

Now, the BJP is especially warm to Israel, partly due to the BJP’s intransigent hostility toward Pakistan and Islam in general. BJP has praised Israel repeatedly as a bulwark against Islamic terrorism. In 2003, when Ariel Sharon visited India, the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) movement stated: “The entire world acknowledges that Israel has effectively and ruthlessly countered terror in the Middle East. Since India and Israel are both fighting a war against terrorism, therefore, we should learn a lesson or two from them.”

Modi himself has visited Israel as chief minister, suggesting that, as the possible next prime minister, he could make history by journeying to the Jewish state. Sumit Ganguly, professor of political science and director of the Center for American and Global Security at the Indiana University School of Global and International Studies in Bloomington, commented that he doesn’t think closer ties between India and Israel (under a Modi administration) would necessarily hurt India’s relations with Arabs, “unless Modi does something rash. “Bear in mind that the BJP, when in office, deepened ties with Israel but nevertheless managed to maintain good relations with the Arab world and Iran,” Ganguly added. Source   http://www.ibtimes.com/india-2014-elections-narendra-modi-israels-best-friend-south-asia-1561837

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