How India’s Federal System Paved the Way for Reconciliation with Israel

June 30 2017

Until 1992, New Delhi and Jerusalem had no diplomatic relations, primarily because India’s longtime leadership role in the “Non-Aligned Bloc” (a group of loosely pro-Soviet Third World countries) translated into cooperation with the Arab states in their war against Israel. Relations thawed slowly in the following years, but Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu have worked more recently to build a true alliance. Next week, Modi will be the first head of the Indian government to visit the Jewish state. P.R. Kumaraswamy explains how India’s federal system has facilitated better relations:

Over the two decades prior to Modi’s ascent, the prolonged political chilliness in New Delhi drove the Israeli embassy in India to look for greener pastures elsewhere. This is where India’s federal political system came to Israel’s rescue. . . . [Since 1993], visits and contacts between the Indian states and Israel have become an all-party affair, with leaders from a host of national and regional parties actively engaging with Israel. Even Communists who vehemently oppose Israel on the national level do not hesitate to engage with it on the provincial level. . . .

The [national] government [must address] political issues such as the Middle East peace process, the political rights of the Palestinians, and balancing Israel with India’s engagement with the Arab world. The priority of state government, however—irrespective of the party in power—is economic development. . . . Notwithstanding [partisan] ideologies, the states are less concerned about the vagaries of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and periodic upsurges of violence than about economic benefits accruing from closer ties with Israel.

Israel has capitalized on the unique Indian arrangement and expanded its footprint in areas such as agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, water management, public health, combating desertification, waste recycling, and more. . . . The skills and human resources available to Western countries often far outweigh Israel’s, [but] they have not been able to achieve the reach Israel has achieved over 25 years.

Above all, the state-centric approach in India has brought diplomatic dividends to Israel. Indo-Israeli relations, [furthermore], have . . . a practical value in terms of improving the quality of life of ordinary Indians.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, India, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-India relations

 

The U.S. Must Maintain the Kurdish Enclave in Eastern Syria

Aug. 16 2018

Presently only two rebel enclaves remain in Syria, and both are dependent on outside powers: one in the northwest, under Turkish control, and an area in the east controlled by the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Only by continuing its support for the latter can America prevent Iranian domination of Syria, writes Jonathan Spyer. Officials in Washington have made various statements suggesting that the White House has no intention of ceding the country to Iran, but haven’t clarified what this means in practice:

Actions . . . are a better guide than sentiments. And it appears that the SDF leaders remain skeptical regarding America’s long-term plans. Last week, the first direct negotiations took place between their representatives and those of the Assad regime, in Damascus.

It is not quite clear where things are heading. But Israel’s interest in this is clear. Maintenance of the east Syrian enclave and the [U.S.] base in Tanf means keeping a substantial physical obstacle to the Iranian hope for a contiguous corridor [connecting it to Lebanon via Syria and Iraq]. It would also prevent an overall Iranian triumph in the war and give the West a place at the table in any substantive political negotiation over Syria’s future. . . .

Specifically, efforts should be made to ensure a formal U.S. declaration of a no-fly zone for regime and regime-allied aircraft east of the Euphrates. This move, reminiscent of the no-fly zone declared over Iraqi Kurdistan after the Gulf War of 1991, would with one stroke ensure the continued viability of the SDF-controlled area. There should also be a formal recognition of the SDF zone, or the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria,” as it is formally known. This entity is not seeking independence from Damascus, so Western concerns regarding the formal breakup of Syria need not be raised by such a move.

As the strategic contest between Iran and its allies and the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East moves into high gear, it is essential that the West maintain its alliances and investments and behaves, and is seen to behave, as a credible and loyal patron and ally.

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Kurds, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy