Since Narendra Modi became prime minister of India in 2014, his country’s relationship with Israel has warmed considerably. This development can be credited in part to the rapport between Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu and in part to the generally pro-Israel stance of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist BJP party, which, when previously in power, took steps to reverse New Delhi’s traditional pro-Arab stance. But actually, argues Harry Hoshovsky, the relationship is not dependent on any one party or leader, but is the result of long-term changes:
[I]t was under the leadership of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao [of the long-dominant Indian National Congress (INC)] that India established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Given prior Indian hostility or indifference toward Israel, diplomatic normalization was a major shift in Indian foreign policy toward the Middle East. The end of the cold war and the initiation of the Oslo peace process afforded New Delhi the opportunity to recalibrate its engagement with both Israel and the Palestinians. Normalization allowed for increased economic, cultural, and security cooperation between Israel and India, while still allowing [the latter] to advocate on behalf of the Palestinians. . . .
After the BJP lost power in 2004, there were concerns that the INC-led [coalition] might roll back some of the diplomatic gains. These fears proved largely unfounded: the government deepened and broadened India’s relationship with Israel, . . . because of an important ideological shift in India regarding its diplomatic balancing act vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinian Authority: . . . starting in 2004, [India] quietly started to disconnect [its] foreign-policy calculations toward Israel from the vagaries of the peace process.
[In addition], Modi’s anticipated visit to Israel [which will be a first] represents a historic opportunity to accomplish two interconnected foreign-policy objectives. India will demonstrate to its Arab partners that a new era of Indo-Israeli relations is under way. And by establishing a new diplomatic status quo, Modi and the BJP will make it very challenging for the INC or any other political party to reverse it.
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