I previously wrote about the gradual transition of India’s Israel policy, from one of hostility to the collaborative stance adopted in 1992 – and the rationale for this shift.
Here, I will further analyze the causes for India’s diplomatic shift and provide a timeline of key events in the changing relationship.
[A] A DEEPER INSIGHT INTO THE CAUSES
(1) BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER
“What have the Arabs given us, if I may ask? Did they vote for usin the Kashmir issue? Were they supportive of us when we had the East Pakistan crisis (1971)?” blasted J.N. Dixit, the foreign secretary of India – and Indian National Congress (INC) Party member – in a January 1992 interview, shortly after normalization with Israel.
The eventual rapprochement was primarily because the Arab world constantly betrayed India by robustly supporting Pakistan on the Kashmir issue – in spite of New Delhi’s hardline backing of Arab causes (especially that of Palestine) in the international arena.
The Palestinians themselves overwhelmingly favoured Pakistan over India. This was predicted by many, when starting 1951, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hussam ad-Din Jarallah, became a staunch defender of Pakistani claims to Kashmir after visiting Pakistan that year.
Israel ALWAYS stood by India’s side on the Kashmir issue, even with New Delhi’s outright hostility.
Dixit’s anger was reflective of the left-wing INC party’s frustration with the Arab world. No longer were grievances over a failed West Asia policy unique to the opposition.
(2) THE IRAQI INVASION OF KUWAIT
India, in the aftermath of Saddam Hussain’s forceful annexation of Kuwait in 1990, supported him until it could airlift the 150,000 or so Indians living in Kuwait. Soon after, India became critical of Iraq, even allowing American warplanes to refuel in Mumbai.
Israel proved its worthiness as an ally, when, in spite of India’s diplomatic belligerence, she offered to transfer to Israel the thousands of Indians languishing in Jordan (after escaping Iraq) and fly them to India for free. The absence of ties caused various bureaucratic hurdles, and the help wasn’t accepted – exposing those stranded to hunger, rape, and theft, leading to a great deal of anger and debate against the INC’s policies.
After supporting Saddam, the PLO and Yasser Arafat lost prestige tremendously in West Asia. Justifiably, Arafat was accused of treachery by the Kuwaitis. He was also shunned by the Gulf States who feared that they could be “next”.
India was heavily dependent on the Gulf Emirates for energy and many economic benefits. To alleviate any anger over its initial support for Saddam, New Delhi distanced itself from the PLO, prioritizing the beneficial relationship with the Gulf over the unrewarding ideological pro-Palestinian espousal.
(3) DECLINE OF THE SOVIET UNION
This event had multiple outcomes:
• Erosion of ideological foundations – From the very beginning, the mass-murdering fascists of the Soviet Union were the self-appointed guardians of the oppressed, torch bearers of the opposition to Western “Imperialism”. This clever fabrication effectively enticed into the Soviet stable many third world countries, themselves victims of colonialism (including India) – resulting in a drastic re-alignment of their foreign policies.