India’s New Israel Policy

How the Decline of the Palestinian Issue and Economic Reorientation Accelerate Indo-Israeli Cooperation

SWP Comment 2019/C 11, March 2019, 4 Pages

In January 2019, about two weeks before India’s Republic Day, Israel’s National Security Advisor, Meir Ben-Shabbat, flew to New Delhi and met Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. While such consultations have been routine for the past two decades, the Israeli official chose the direct Air India flight from Tel Aviv – a new flight connection that could only be established due to an unprecedented permit for Israel-bound flights to fly over Saudi airspace. The small incident highlights the distance that India and Israel have traveled since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1992. Today, the two states share an ever-growing cooperation, especially in the areas of security and eco­nomic development. This rapprochement with Israel is embedded in India’s broader Middle East strategy, in which especially the Gulf Arab states are important partners. Thus, India-Israel relations have also been catalyzed by the improvement in ties be­tween Israel and the Gulf States as well as the diminishing role played by the Palestin­ian issue. This, in turn, has led India, especially under Modi, not only to strengthen its ties with Israel, but also to de-hyphenate those ties from the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, leading to a marginalization of the Palestinian question in Indian foreign policy.

The rapprochement between Israel and India in recent years has been brought about at the expense of the Palestinians’ standing in India’s regional policy. This marginalization could be seen in India’s abstentions at the UNHCR votes on the Gaza conflict in 2014 and the challenges to Jewish historical links to Jerusalem at UNESCO in 2016. It was even more clearly visible when PM Modi avoided making any reference in 2017 to East Jerusalem being the capital of the future Palestinian state – with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas standing by his side.

In delinking the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict from its relations with Israel, India had concluded a shift that began in the early 1990s. Prior to that   ….

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P. R. Kumaraswamy /    Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik © 2019