Thesis: Are Indian-Israeli Relations Useful for India's National Interests?

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¶ … Indian-Israeli Relations Valuable to India's National Interests?

Today, India stands at an important juncture in its historical development. Following its independence from Britain in 1948, the years that followed have been turbulent ones for India, with a relentless series of political, military and economic challenges confronting the country time and again. Despite these challenges, India has emerged in the 21st center as an increasingly important actor within the international community and has enjoyed steady economic growth for the past two decades. Notwithstanding its enormous geographic size and population, though, India continues to perceive a number of external threats, most especially with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and relations with much of the Arab world that have often been ambivalent or even hostile. In this environment, forging a foreign policy that ensures that India's national interests are protected while continuing the path to larger integration in the international community represents a difficult but important enterprise. To determine the historical basis for the current issues facing India in this regard, this study provides a review of the relevant literature concerning Indian foreign policy in general and its foreign policy positions with Israel in particular. A summary of the research and important findings are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Background and Overview

With a population of more than 1,100,000,000 people and an economy that has experienced steady and impressive growth for the past 20 years (India 2010), India is the world's largest democracy and is well positioned to become an increasingly important actor in the international community in the future. For example, Berlin emphasizes that, "One of the key milestones in world history has been the rise to prominence of new and influential states in world affairs. The recent trajectory of India suggests strongly that this state will play a more powerful role in the world in the coming decades" (2006:58). This point is also made by Ghoshal who emphases that, "The theme of India's power and influence in world affairs is not new. India's enormous size especially in terms of its population, rich natural resources and its strategic location together with a civilizational past has long convinced Indian leaders of an imperative for playing an international role" (2003:521).

The evolving international role that India will occupy in the years to come appears to be inextricably interwoven with how it deals with Israel. In this regard, Menon and Pandey emphasize that, "The transformation in the relationship between India and Israel, from one that was at best cool and correct to one that is now hailed as a strategic alignment is among the striking changes in the post-Cold War landscape" (2005:29). This transformation in foreign policy has received the full support and encouragement of the international community in general and Israeli, Indian and American observers in particular (Menon & Pandey 2005). According to these authorities, "They believe that its potential significance extends well beyond the dense network of transactions that has developed between the two sides, and out across the entire region of South Asia and the Greater Middle East" (Menon & Pandey 2005:30).

Although India and Israel have experienced a fundamental shift in their respective foreign policy stances with respect to each other over the years, there are some important issues involved in this complicated relationship that may create difficulties in the future (Menon & Pandey 2005). In this regard, Menon and Pandey note that, "Both friends and foes of the alignment between India and Israel see it as an important development. Only once this much ballyhooed entente faces trials that require tough tradeoffs will we know whether it will be limited to mutual gains provided by arms sales and the flow of commerce" (2005:30). Suggesting that it is still too early to gauge the long-term implications of this sea change in foreign policy on the part of India with respect to normalizing and improving relations with Israel, Menon and Pandey conclude that, "Such exchanges would still put India and Israel on a new road, but they will not amount to a strategic partnership that could change the balance of power in pivotal regions. For now, the safe bet is that the collaboration between India and Israel will meet the expectations of neither its foremost proponents nor its most fervent critics" (2005:30).

As can be seen from the political map of India at Appendix a, the country, like Israel, is geographically located in a strategic region of the world, and the countries that neighbor India as well as other major actors, including Israel, with interests in the area have all played a formative role in its foreign policy decision-making over the years (Berlin 2006). According to Berlin, "Over the past few years, India has placed itself on a path to achieve, potentially, the regional influence in the Indian Ocean to which it has aspired. India's links with the most important external actors in the Indian Ocean -- the United States, Japan, Israel, and France-also have been strengthened" (2006:58). These improve relationships are due in large part to the burgeoning Indian economy to be sure, but there have been some notable refinements in India's foreign policy as well. In this regard, Berlin adds that, "These are significant achievements, and they derive from India's growing economic clout and from a surer hand visible today in Indian diplomacy" (2006:58).

The concept of Indian national interest is expressed in part in the manner in which it pursues its foreign policy goals. Modern Indian foreign policy can be traced to the country's independence from the United Kingdom in 1947 and the installation of Jawaharlal Nehru as its first prime minister (Wadlow 2003). According to Wadlow, "Nehru was able to play a high profile role in world politics, especially at the start of the Cold War and as a mediator in the 1950-1953 Korean War, which some feared was the forerunner of a broader armed conflict. Indian diplomats were also able to work on compromise formulas during the 1954 Geneva Conference on Indo-China" (2003:90). Although allowed a great deal of latitude in establishing foreign policy goals and developing a unique diplomatic Indian style, Nehru experienced a number of significant foreign policy challenges early on, including when the issue of the partitioning of Pakistan erupted into country-wide inter-religious violence and the Kashmir issue (Wadlow 2003). According to U.S. analysts, "Communal violence led to the subcontinent's bloody partition, which resulted in the creation of two separate states, India and Pakistan. The two countries have fought three wars since independence, the last of which in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. India's nuclear weapons tests in 1998 caused Pakistan to conduct its own tests that same year" (India 2010:3). Although the two countries have not used their nuclear weapons against each other, the potential for this eventuality hangs heavy over the region as well as the rest of the world. From India's perspective, nuclear weapons are just part of the arsenal it needs to ensure its survival in a hostile world. In this regard, Karp emphasizes that, "For India, a nuclear weapons capability is an issue that defines national uniqueness. The end of the Cold War provoked a crisis of credibility for Indian foreign policy, which found itself unable to adjust to a world without the Soviet Union, dominated by economic globalization and American political leadership" (1998:14). Despite its nuclear capability, India's foreign policy was mired in stagnated economic development pool. As Karp puts it, "India's attempt at economic liberalization began in 1991 but quickly stalled, keeping foreign investment low and suppressing growth" (1998:14). Moreover, India's foreign policy during the closing decade of the 20th century was largely based on reacting negatively to the United States and its allies. According to Karp, "Indian commentators have been highly critical of the country's indecisive foreign policy that is seemingly based only on opposition to the United States. This policy manifests itself in areas as diverse as opposition to pressure on Iraq, criticism of NATO expansion and particularly with regard to arms control and disarmament issues" (1998:14). There has been one issue on which virtually all Indian policymakers agree, though, and that is its right to possess nuclear weapons without restrictions of any type from the international community. As Karp points out, "One clear cornerstone of New Delhi's foreign policy-something on which Indians of every political stripe can agree is opposition to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)" (1998:14). Although most of the international community has supported the NPT, India and Israel remains two of the last three holdouts for much the same reasons (Karp 1998). Both India and Israel have good reason to be wary about the promises made by the international community and both countries have experienced attempts by its neighbors to eradicate them from the world map. Although other countries have expressed their reservations about the NPT, India is unique in its outspoken criticisms of the pact. According to Karp, "

Where India stands apart is in its long-standing moral opposition to what it… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Are Indian-Israeli Relations Useful for India's National Interests?."  Essaytown.com.  October 20, 2010.  Accessed June 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/indian-israeli-relations-useful-india/80018.