Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, popularly known as Bibi, will be visiting his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on 14 January and spending several days with his very close friend. Bibi is reciprocating Modi's historical trip to Israel last summer when he became the first-ever sitting Indian Prime Minister to visit there, during which time many deals were signed and the two leaders even bonded over a barefoot walk together in the Mediterranean Sea. Modi's outreach to Bibi was unprecedented since formally "non-aligned" India had previously backed the Arab bloc all throughout the Cold War, but relations between New Delhi and Tel Aviv were formalized over a quarter-century ago and have developed quite smoothly in the time since.
Even so, India has traditionally been reluctant to trumpet this too loudly on the world stage out of fear of jeopardizing its relations with Muslim countries, but Modi's 2014 election changed all of that once the BJP Hindu nationalists came to power. To channel Trump, the party's platform can be best described as striving to "Make India Great Again" according to their vision, which has been criticized at home and abroad for pivoting too much from their country's post-independence policies of secularism and non-alignment and instead embracing religious politics and a pro-Western vector in international affairs.
Hindu and Jewish nationalists generally believe that Islam constitutes a common adversary and both India and Israel have been accused of violently suppressing Muslims in Kashmir and Palestine, which some say cynically explains why they've tremendously expanded their military ties with one another since the BJP's victory. In addition, the growing closeness of India to Israel also parallels the South Asian state's global strategic partnership with the US, thereby laying the groundwork for a potential trilateral alliance. New Delhi's ties with Tel Aviv aren't just limited to the military sphere, however, but have recently taken on a robustness that includes agricultural, water, and technological cooperation too.
Modi's bonhomie with Bibi hasn't come without geopolitical consequences, though, since President Bashar Assad's chief advisor, Bouthaina Shaaban, warned last August that her country was very disappointed about the Indian leader's trip to Israel a month before that and is hesitant about involving it in reconstruction projects in the country due to public outrage over the visit. In addition, India is depending on Iran for its North-South Transport Corridor to Central Asia and Russia, and it's well known that Tehran has no love at all for Tel Aviv, thus putting New Delhi in a tricky geostrategic position.
Andrew is joined by Saikat Bhattacharyya, Research scholar in economics at Jadavpur University in Kolkata.
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