When it comes to tackling terror, India and Israel have more in common with each other than the west

IDF troops on the Gaza border last week.
IDF troops on the Gaza border last week.

As extremism and terrorism rocket, two nations, seemingly worlds apart, find themselves sharing a common struggle. India and Israel, both surrounded by neighbours that have not always been firm friends, have much in common when it comes to tackling extremism. Much that Western politicians and pundits fail to grasp.

The brutal 7/10 attacks on Israel have put this reality sharply into focus once again.

These two democracies, despite their distinct historical, cultural, and geographical backgrounds, share a common purpose in the face of extremism.

India is a land where countless languages, religions, and ethnicities have coexisted for millennia, not without problems. On the other hand, the Jewish state, with its sizable Muslim, Christian and Druze minorities, stands as a bastion of democracy in a turbulent region.

Both countries face immediate and tangible security threats from neighbouring countries and non-state actors. India shares its borders with Pakistan and China, both of which have been sources of conflict and tension. Similarly, Israel has faced ongoing security challenges from hostile neighbours, including-but far from limited to-Hamas in Gaza, a spate of terror groups in the West Bank and Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon.

India and Israel have a long history of dealing with terrorism and insurgency. India has faced a prolonged struggle with violent separatist movements in regions like Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the menace of left-wing extremism in the “Red Corridor.” These battles have shaped their respective security strategies and have forced them to develop innovative and realistic approaches to counter extremist threats, while the West often languishes in denial and inertia.

Both nations have invested heavily in intelligence agencies and cybersecurity to stay ahead of their adversaries. Israel’s renowned intelligence agencies have developed a reputation for their exceptional capabilities, often contributing to preemptive strikes and the prevention of terrorist attacks. Sadly this does not make them immune to errors or oversight, as the catastrophic events of 7/10, and the ensuing war with Gaza make clear.

Both nations have invested heavily in intelligence agencies and cybersecurity to stay ahead of their adversaries.

Both are imperfect but democratic states threatened by global terrorism and understand that extremism knows no boundaries. India has been a target of international terrorist organisations, and Israel has been a constant victim of state-sponsored terrorism. In this context, both nations actively engage with the international community, sharing their experiences and expertise to counter extremism effectively. India’s growing partnerships with nations like the United States and Israel’s collaboration with Arab countries facing similar threats in the Middle East are testament to their commitment to a united front against extremism.

Furthermore, India and Israel are cognisant of the importance of community engagement and countering radicalisation at the grassroots level. Both nations have implemented programs that aim to deradicalise and reintegrate individuals who have been influenced by extremist ideologies. Meanwhile, in the UK and Europe, spates of terror attacks have been carried out-including the tragic 7/7 bombings in London, the Boston Marathon attack, and the Paris Bataclan massacre- by radicals previously known to state intelligence.

While India and Israel share much in common when it comes to tackling extremism, they also face unique challenges. India’s terror threats are often linked to internal conflicts and separatist movements, while Israel’s challenges stem from its precarious geopolitical position in the Middle East, where many Islamist groups have attempted to thwart its survival since its independence.

Israeli authorities are disappointed at the West’s long history of harbouring terror and extremism, with recent reports revealing the two senior Hamas members were residing in the UK

Like Israelis, many Indians are convinced, rightly or wrongly, that other Western nations are well aware of the activities of extremist elements in the West but have chosen paths of passivity.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent claim that the Indian government was involved in the June 2023 murder of Canada-based Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar has obvious parallels with the response of Canada and other Western states’ complacent reactions to Israel’s operations against Hamas and other terror groups, along with radicalism on their own soil.

While the exact nature and reason for Nijjar’s demise is uncertain (intra-Sikh violence could have been a factor), plenty of armchair commentators have simply chosen to ignore that he was affiliated with the Khalistan Tiger Force, a separatist group advocating for Sikh theocracy in Punjab, India. Canada, despite evidence of Nijjar’s terrorist sympathies, still chose to grant him citizenship.

The Pakistan Inter-Service Intelligence agency purportedly utilised Nijjar to establish a training camp for Khalistan militants in British Columbia in 2015.

India accused Nijjar of planning several acts of terrorism, including the 2007 cinema bombing in Ludhiana, the 2009 murder of Sikh politician Rulda Singh, a conspiracy to kill Hindu religious leader Kamaldeep Sharma, involvement in a temple explosion in Patiala in 2010, and multiple assassinations.

Similarly, Israeli authorities are disappointed at the West’s long history of harbouring terror and extremism, with recent reports revealing the two senior Hamas members were residing in the UK, where they were permitted to purchase properties discounted by taxpayers.

In a world where extremism continues to threaten the stability and security of nations, India and Israel often stand as beacons of resilience and innovation against their complacent partners in the West, and only time will tell as to which weather the coming storms.

Georgia is a freelance journalist and broadcaster.

About the Author
Georgia Leigha Leatherdale Gilholy is a journalist and the director of media for the Pinsker Centre think tank. Follow her on Twitter @llggeorgia.