Many will say Modi’s visit to Ramallah is an historic moment, but India buys 41 per cent of total Israeli arms exports.
India has gradually become Israel’s largest defense customer. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), between 2012 and 2016, India bought 41 per cent of total Israeli arms exports.
In an interview on Voice of Palestine radio station recently, Majid Khalidi, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, announced the visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the occupied Palestinian territories this weekend. Alongside a tour to Yasser Arafat Museum in Ramallah to honour the late Palestinian leader, the Prime Minister is expected to discuss issues related to information technology, tourism and health during this brief stopover on the broader Middle East tour.
Modi’s upcoming visit to Ramallah, a first for an Indian premier, is being hailed as historic by his Palestinian hosts. However, a closer scrutiny of New Delhi’s ties with Israel along with India’s own record of military control in places like Kashmir reveals an entirely different picture.
During the years preceding India’s independence, Indian nationalist leaders expressed regular solidarity for the Palestinian cause and viewed both the British mandate rule as well as the Israeli incursion into Palestinian territories from an anti-imperial perspective. Gandhi, in a 1938 article, wrote that Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories were “inhumane”.
This anti-colonial idealism largely guided India’s policy towards Israel and the Palestinian territories post-independence until New Delhi established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. During the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan, facing sanctions from United States for the previous year’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests, India swiftly turned to Israel for arms supplies. Since then, India has gradually become Israel’s largest defence customer. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), between 2012 and 2016, India bought 41 per cent of total Israeli arms exports.