Two thousand five hundred miles separate the Israeli ministry of defence in Tel Aviv from the Indian ministry of defence in New Delhi, but there’s a reason why the usual cliché-stricken agency dispatches sound so similar.
For months, Israel has been assiduously lining itself up alongside India’s nationalist BJP government in an unspoken — and politically dangerous — “anti-Islamist” coalition, an unofficial, unacknowledged alliance.
India was Israel’s largest arms client in 2017, paying £530 million for Israeli air defence, radar systems and ammunition, including air-to-ground missiles — most of them tested during Israel’s military offensives against Palestinians and targets in Syria. The Israelis have filmed joint exercises between their own “special commando” units and those sent by India to be trained in the Negev desert, again with all the expertise supposedly learned by Israel in Gaza and other civilian-thronged battlefronts.
[Brussels researcher Shairee Malhotra explains the situation]
“The India-Israel relationship is also commonly being framed in terms of a natural convergence of ideas between their ruling BJP and Likud parties,” she wrote last year. Hindu nationalists had constructed “a narrative of Hindus as historical victims at the hands of Muslims”, an attractive idea to those Hindus who recall the partition and the continuing turbulent relationship with Pakistan. In fact, as Malhotra pointed out in Haaretz, “Israel’s biggest fans in India appear to be the ‘internet Hindus’ who primarily love Israel for how it deals with Palestine and fights Muslims.”
It is difficult to see how Zionist nationalism will not leach into Hindu nationalism when Israel is supplying so many weapons to India — the latest of which India, which has enjoyed diplomatic relations with Israel since 1992, has already used against Islamists inside Pakistan.