Vijeta Uniyal

Israel’s new friend in New Delhi

India's prime minister elect is a declared friend of the Jewish state with a lon record of close economic ties

Narendra Modi is the next Prime Minister of India. Modi’s NDA-Alliance won 336 out of 543 seats in the Indian parliament. He has routed the ruling Congress Party led by Rahul Gandhi, the 4th-generation member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

Modi is arguably one of the most capable administrators in India. As Chief Minister of Gujarat State (2002-14) he turned the economy around, created infrastructure and improved public services. With a population of 60 million, Gujarat’s per-capita GDP today is much higher than India’s average.

Today the majority of Indians want Modi to repeat his performance as the next prime Minister the country.

A lot of ink has been spilled in the international press over this relatively unknown man now at the helm in New Delhi. However there is one story readers in Israel need to hear: Modi is a friend of Israel, the likes of whom India has not seen before.

This fact can be stated without any exaggeration or wishful thinking. All one needs to do is to look at Modi’s track record.

Modi is the first Indian leader to have actually visited Israel. He has often expressed admiration for Israel’s achievements in research, technology and innovation, especially in the field of agriculture and water resources.

Every year more than two thousand farmers from Gujarat visit Israel to get trained in advanced farming techniques – at their own expense. He welcomed Israeli companies to enter the water management and recycling sector in fifty cities of Gujarat; and invited Israel to be the guest country at Gujarat state’s flagship Agricultural Fair (Vibrant Gujarat Agro Tech Global Fair 2014).

Snubbed by the US on the basis of allegations relating to his role in 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots, Modi has held an excellent working relationship with the Israeli business community and diplomatic mission. He has worked to create an industrial fund to promote joint ventures between Israeli and Gujarat-based companies.

To Modi’s credit, he has never expressed any personal grudge against the US administration’s punitive actions, but judging by his political track record, he does tend to remember old friends. According to most pundits in New Delhi, he is expected to visit Israel before he calls on Washington.

Ideologically, Modi is sympathetic to the notion of the Jewish homeland. His own election manifesto mirrors the millennia-old Jewish desire and calls India a homeland for prosecuted Hindus. This is a sea change compared to the attitudes of his successors, who refused to recognize Israel till 1991 and restricted India-Israel relations to trade and defense procurement.

I will leave it to the skeptics and pundits to give a thousand and one reasons for not extending a hand of friendship to India’s PM-elect Narendra Modi; but for me, if someone talks like a friend and acts like a friend, I will take my chances and call him a friend.

About the Author
Vijeta Uniyal is an Indian journalist based in Europe. He is Contributing Editor for the Commentator and Senior Distinguished Fellow at New York-based Gatestone Institute. He graduated from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) and worked for more than 10 years in international organisations, including German Foreign Office, German Minister for Economics and Technology, Goethe Institute and Humboldt Foundation.