J.J. Goldberg

India's New Chief Sees Israel as Ally on Terror

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Israeli leaders are celebrating the upset victory in Indian elections of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, whose leader, the reputedly anti-Muslim Narendra Modi, wants closer ties with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized economic ties on Sunday when he told his cabinet about his Friday phone conversation with the Indian prime minister-elect. The Israeli leader called Modi to congratulate him. Reports in both the Times of Israel and India’s Economic Times quoted Netanyahu telling the cabinet that Modi wants “to deepen and develop economic ties with the state of Israel.” The Times of Israel reported in detail on massive Israeli investment in the economy of India’s Gujarat state in the 13 years since Modi became its chief minister.

But in-depth analyses in two conservative dailies, Israel’s Maariv and the New York-based International Business Times, both describe a deeper reason for the two leaders’ shared enthusiasm: a belief on both sides that they share a common enemy in radical Islamist terrorism.

India’s 1.3 billion population, though roughly 154 times the size of Israel’s 8.2 million, bears a striking demographic similarity. It’s about 80% Hindu. Its 176 million Muslims, the world’s second-largest Muslim community after Indonesia’s, make up about 14.4% of the population. Christians make up just under 3%. Israel is 75% Jewish, 16% Muslim and just under 3% Christian.

British rule in India ended in 1947 with the partition of the country into two states, majority-Hindu India and majority-Muslim Pakistan. The partition was accompanied by massive bloodshed and has left ongoing bitterness.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is commonly described as Hindu-nationalist, favoring a stronger identification of the Indian state and nation with the majority Hindu religious tradition, from which India gets its name. The party opposes the strictly secularist ideology of founder Mahatma Gandhi’s Congress Party which ruled India for 61 of its 67 years of independence. BJP includes openly anti-Muslim elements, and Modi himself has a checkered past in Hindu-Muslim relations. His Gujarat state was wracked by deadly anti-Muslim rioting that left more than 1,000 dead in 2002, shortly after he became chief minister. His alleged role in the rioting led to his being banned from the United States until recently.

Israel, however, cultivated close ties with Modi and with the national BJP, which was in power in New Delhi at the time, seeing them as important allies. The Forward’s Ami Eden reported in 2003 on a warm reception given at the time to a visiting BJP leader, India’s then-deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, just days after he was charged in India with helping to incite a 1992 anti-Muslim riot. Advani was also under fire at the time from human rights advocates for his close ties to Modi, who was considered a leader of the BJP’s radical anti-Muslim wing.

AJC issued a statement this past Friday, immediately after Modi’s victory was announced, congratulating BJP on its victory and recalling its past ties with Modi.

BJP ruled India for nearly six years between 1998 and 2004, but it lacked a majority and was forced to rule in coalition with moderate regional parties that checked its radical wing on the national stage. In this year’s elections, Modi won an outright majority in parliament and will face fewer limits. Maariv’s analyst Lev Aran, a former staff director of the Knesset’s India-Israel Friendship Caucus, wrote that Modi’s ability to deepen India’s Hindu sectarian identity would be limited by India’s constitution. Still, he wrote,

Modi will find ways to designate India as the homeland of the Hindus. Textbooks will be changed to describe India as their homeland, refugees from Bangladesh will acquire a sort of “law of return,” and Hindu religious ceremonies, with the participation and leadership of Modi and his ministers, will become the norm in India’s public square. To draw a somewhat problematic comparison, Modi will erode India’s sacred secular ethos as a state of all its citizens and move it towards the sort of Zionist ethos currently on the rise in Israel.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Narendra Modi, Mahatma Gandhi, Maariv, Lev Aran, L.K. Advani, International Business Times, India, Hindu, Gujarat, Economic Times of India, Congress Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, Ami Eden, American Jewish Committee, Times of Israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.