During his visit to Israel last week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accompanied by Benjamin Netanyahu, paid a visit to a cemetery in Haifa where 44 Indian soldiers who fought with the British army during World War I were laid to rest. September 23, 1917, the anniversary of the Battle of Haifa—during which these soldiers fell—is still commemorated by the modern Indian Army. Lenny Ben-David tells the story of the Indian troops who fought to free Palestine from Ottoman rule, and especially their role in the liberation of Jerusalem:
More than a million Indian troops fought with the British army in World War I, at the Western front in Europe [and] in Africa, Mesopotamia, and the Near East. On the Sinai-Palestine front, 95,000 Indian combatants served; approximately 10 percent were killed. From 1914 to 1918, they fought the Turkish and German armies at Gallipoli and the Suez Canal, throughout the Sinai and Palestine, and finally at Damascus, with crucial battles in Gaza, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, Nablus, and Megiddo. . . .
The Indian troops served in the cavalry, camel corps, infantry, and logistics units. A large number of them were Muslims, and the Turks attempted to weaken their resolve with religious appeals. Except for a few cases, the Turkish propaganda failed. The importance of Muslim soldiers was understood by the British commander Edmund Allenby. After capturing Jerusalem, he cabled to London, “The Mosque of Omar and the area round it has been placed under Muslim control, and a military cordon, composed of Indian Mahomedan officers and soldiers, has been established round the mosque.” . . .
The war ended in 1918, but British and Indian troops remained to police the British Mandate and put down Arab disturbances.