A riel Sharon, the infamous Prime Minister of Israel came to India and left earlier than scheduled. The visit of an Israeli Prime Minister to India could never be of a ‘vini-vidi-vici’ variety where the visitor supposedly comes, sees and conquers! On the contrary, the visit of ‘Butcher Sharon’ evoked powerful protests all over the country. But sections of the dominant media chose to dismiss and even condemn the protests as ‘routine Muslim opposition’ while going gaga over the ‘promises’ held by a growing partnership between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. It is time for a fresh look at the implication of these ‘promises’ so the country can be saved from being doomed like Israel.
Repeating the same line that Brajesh Mishra had advocated earlier in New York, Vajpayee openly called for an alliance of the three ‘embattled democracies’ India, Israel and the United States. The Congress too appeared to share this new-found foreign policy wisdom of the NDA government and Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by senior Congress leaders Manmohan Singh and Natwar Singh, called upon the Israeli Prime Minister. The Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Yosef Lapid told the Indian media about there already being an ‘unwritten and abstract axis’ among the three countries.
Although the formal statement issued at the end of the visit talked about the development of ‘Friendship and Cooperation’ between the two countries and emphasised bilateral economic and commercial relations, it is well known that the focus has primarily been on defence with talks of India acquring Phalcon airborne warning and control system and Arrow surface-to-air missiles. With American approval India may purchase such ultra-expensive weapons from Israel, but it will be foolish to believe that such weapons will arm India with any greater degree of security.
Already Pakistan has started complaining about the India-Israel nexus and apprehensions are being expressed from different corners of South Asia about the upsetting impact Israeli weapons would have on the strategic equilibrium in the sub-continent. It is a matter of time before the US also approves the sale of similar weapons to Pakistan by some other supplier. The sale of Israeli weapons to India thus can only signal the beginning of a new phase of disastrous arms race between india and Pakistan.
Indeed, the whole notion of ‘borrowing security’ from Israel is utterly illusory and suicidal. Thanks to its belligerent approach and militarist policy, Israel remains and is destined to remain one of the most insecure countries in the world. Sharon’s very trip to India was haunted by a high level of fear and insecurity. His aircraft had avoided the air space of Islamic countries – instead of taking the normal eastern route which would have taken only three-and-a-half hours, Sharon’s flight took the longest route which took over eight-and-a-half hours! Journalists trying to interview Sharon during his visit also got ample taste of the Isreali obsession with security and the fabled ‘efficiency’ of the Israeli security agencies. And finally it was terror, which cut the Sharon trip short following blasts back in Israel on 9 September.
Being bracketed with Israel and the United States can never be a ‘gain’ or ‘plus’ for India’s foreign policy. However much Vajpayee may try and evoke the world’s sympathy for the ‘embattled democracies’ in Israel and the US, every child knows that these two powers are the biggest aggressors and violators of peace, security and human rights in world history. Just a few hours after Sharon’s return to Israel, a senior minister of his cabinet Mr Ehud Olmert bluntly stated that assassination of Arafat remained an open option for the Israeli establishment. The more New Delhi gets identified with Tel Aviv and Washington, the more will it invite isolation from the rest of the world.
Launching a new phase of arms race with Pakistan and alarming and antagonising the neighbours is the last thing that India needs at a time when India-Pakistan ties are getting normalised and the SAARC countries are hoping to have their long-awaited summit in January 2004. Most importantly, the politics of an India-Israel-US axis runs completely counter to the economics of third world solidarity. If the Cancun spirit has to be sustained, and resistance to the OECD countries made more efective and credible, then New Delhi must immediately be freed from the disastrous course of an axis with Tel Aviv and Washington.