India's Israel Policy

India's Israel Policy

P. R. Kumaraswamy
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    India's Israel Policy
    Book Description:

    India's foreign policy toward Israel is a subject of deep dispute. Throughout the twentieth century arguments have raged over the Palestinian problem and the future of bilateral relations. Yet no text comprehensively looks at the attitudes and policies of India toward Israel, especially their development in conjunction with history.

    P. R. Kumaraswamy is the first to account for India's Israel policy, revealing surprising inconsistencies in positions taken by the country's leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and tracing the crackling tensions between its professed values and realpolitik. Kumaraswamy's findings debunk the belief that India possesses a homogenous policy toward the Middle East. In fact, since the early days of independence, many within India have supported and pursued relations with Israel.

    Using material derived from archives in both India and Israel, Kumaraswamy investigates the factors that have hindered relations between these two countries despite their numerous commonalities. He also considers how India destabilized relations, the actions that were necessary for normalization to occur, and the directions bilateral relations may take in the future. In his most provocative argument, Kumaraswamy underscores the disproportionate affect of anticolonial sentiments and the Muslim minority on shaping Indian policy.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52548-0
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    When it comes to the Jews, Israel, and the wider Middle East, even Mahatma Gandhi is not infallible. At one level, he appeared to have repudiated any Jewish claims to Palestine. This was evidenced by a widely quoted statement he made in 1939: “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English and France to the French.”¹ For many Indians and non-Indians alike, this signaled his unequivocal rejection of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Careful examination of his other statements, including a confidential note he wrote to his old Jewish friend Hermann Kallenbach...

  5. 2 Mahatma Gandhi and the Jewish National Home
    (pp. 25-43)

    Writing in his Harijan weekly in November 1938, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (more commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi) observed: “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English and France to the French.”¹ This supposedly unequivocal endorsement of the Palestinians and repudiation of the Zionist demand for a Jewish national home figures prominently in Indian discourses on the Arab-Israeli conflict.² It is almost impossible to locate any discussion on the Middle East without a reference to this quotation. For example, meeting in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in August 1997, the plenary session of the All-India congress...

  6. 3 The Congress Party and the Yishuv
    (pp. 44-67)

    Founded in 1885, the Indian National Congress not only led India’s struggle for independence but also showed an active interest in various international developments. The problems faced by Indian laborers in different parts of the world dominated its external interests. It empathized with other national-liberation movements in their fight against imperialism and colonialism. This inevitably drew the INC to the Middle East, a major arena of anti-imperialist struggle since the early twentieth century. In practical terms, it meant the Indian nationalists would get entangled in the struggle for a Jewish national home in Palestine. The Congress Party’s positions become pertinent...

  7. 4 The Islamic Prism The INC Versus the Muslim League
    (pp. 68-84)

    To understand India’s Israel policy, one has to recognize the centrality of Islam and its influences. Overshadowed by generalities, euphemisms, political correctness, and secular rhetoric, this facet has rarely received an informed treatment. Any discussion on the Islamic inputs into India’s policy toward the Middle East has become anathema and is often dismissed as an anti-Muslim conspiracy of the Hindu right wing. Numerous writings on the subject have marginalized or ignored the Islamic dimension. Be that as it may, India has always perceived, understood, and articulated its position toward Israel through an Islamic prism. In a sense, this is not...

  8. 5 India, UNSCOP, and the Partition of Palestine
    (pp. 85-107)

    Speaking before the Constituent Assembly of India on December 4, 1947, just days after the UN General Assembly voted for the partition of Palestine, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared: “After a great deal of thought we decided that this was not only a fair and equitable solution of the problem, but the only real solution of the problem. Any other solution would have meant fighting and conflict.”¹ He was referring not to partition but to the ill-fated federal solution that India had advocated as a member of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). In the wake of decades of...

  9. 6 Recognition Without Relations
    (pp. 108-137)

    The traditional pro-Arab position and opposition to the partition plan inhibited India from immediately recognizing the Jewish state. At the same time, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru could not ignore Israel’s existence and its recognition by the international community and United Nations. Even when India eventually recognized Israel in September 1950, it was not followed by the logical next step of normalization of relations. If recognition took more than two years to materialize, diplomatic relations had to wait for over four decades. The prolonged absence of formal ties resulted in speculations about the nature of Indian recognition. The Indian ledership, especially...

  10. 7 Domestic Politics
    (pp. 138-162)

    Like the child in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, one is tempted to shout, But the Emperor has nothing on at all! The domestic dimension is the most difficult aspect of India’s Israel policy to research and analyze; it is hard to quantify and support with evidence. Political correctness, partisan politics, and a paucity of official papers compound the problem. The nonparochial and inclusive nationalist struggle undertaken by the Congress Party meant that its policies before and after independence have to be seen and presented within a secular paradigm. However, most scholars argue that India’s Middle East policy is shaped...

  11. 8 International Factors
    (pp. 163-181)

    Belated recognition and Jawaharlal Nehru’s commitment to the normalization of relations between India and Israel were important milesotnes in India’s Middle East policy. They were significant departures from the past and signaled a new approach. Eventual progress, however, was minimal, and the absence of relations remained the hallmark of its foreign policy for over four decades. If domestic concerns over Muslim populations played a crucial role, was the international climate more favorable? If the Congress Party could not find a common cause with the yishuv, did independent India look for political common ground with Israel? Was there at some point...

  12. 9 Nehru and the Era of Deterioration, 1947–1964
    (pp. 182-200)

    Panikkar’s prognosis, which he made in April 1947, was quickly proved wrong, either because of misreading or wishful thinking. Within months of his observation, India not only opposed a Jewish homeland in Palestine but also had voted against the UN partition plan. Jawaharlal Nehru did not radically alter India’s policy toward the Middle East. If he was the chief foreign-policy spokesperson for the Congress Party during the nationalist phase, he laid the foundation of free India’s policy. Earlier, Nehru had to compete with Mahatma Gandhi’s towering personality; now he emerged as the uncrowned monarch on foreign-policy issues. As such, much...

  13. 10 The Years of Hardened Hostility, 1964–1984
    (pp. 201-223)

    By the early 1960s, the absence of relations with Israel was well established, and India began to use this to further its interests in the Middle East. Following the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in May 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri became India’s prime minister. As far as foreign policy was concerned, his tenure, which lasted less than two years, was a transitory one. Shastri had the disadvantage of being overshadowed by Nehru’s personality and legacy. Following Nehru’s footsteps, especially on foreign policy, was the only option available to him. His maiden foreign visit as prime minister was to Cairo to attend...

  14. 11 Prelude to Normalization
    (pp. 224-237)

    On January 29, 1992, India became the last major non-Arab and non-Islamic state to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. While the final credit went to Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, much of the ground work was done by Rajiv Gandhi. During his tenure as prime minister between 1984 and 1989, Gandhi made a number of small but significant moves toward Israel, repaired some of the damages of the past, and started a process that eventually bore fruit a few years later. He approached the Middle East with an open mind and had a genuine desire to explore new avenues....

  15. 12 Normalization and After
    (pp. 238-263)

    On January 29, 1992, hours before Prime Minister Narasimha Rao left for New York for the summit meeting of the UN Security Council, India announced its decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. The significance of the decision was so palpable that the foreign secretary chose to make this announcement to the media.¹ More than four decades after its recognition, India finally decided to take the next logical step: normalization. This was the most visible foreign-policy shift India had made since the end of the cold war. What was promised by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952 eventually happened under another...

  16. 13 Conclusion
    (pp. 264-274)

    “Jerusalem has been a holy city for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Lately, it has also become a holy city for the Indian armed forces.”¹ Though odd—and some might say controversial—this formulation aptly reflects the newly found Indian fondness for Israel. Since the establishment of relations in January 1992, India has come a long way. Within a short span of time, bilateral relations have flourished considerably, often frustrating countries whose historic ties with India could not match the profile that Israel has acquired within a decade of normalization. The transformation has been astronomical.

    In 1947, represented by the Congress...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 275-322)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 323-338)
  19. Index
    (pp. 339-362)