Israel-India alliance: A recipe for global expansion of Islamophobia


Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz (left) shakes hands with India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh as he arrives for a bilateral meeting in New Delhi on 2 June 2022 PHOTO/AFP

Under the BJP government, India’s ties with Israel have moved beyond economic interests to far-right ideological synergy

The IndiaIsrael relationship highlights the thin line between principles and interests. India has historically been a political ally against Israel’s colonial occupation of Palestine. Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and other forefathers of the Indian independence struggle challenged the Israeli occupation.

India’s support for Palestinians did not wane even after India officially recognised the state of Israel in 1950. Only after the end of the Cold War and the opportunity for capitalist expansion did India establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. 

In the following decades, principles were squashed by interests. In 2006, India and Israel signed the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project to share best practices on increasing crop diversity and productivity, alongside professional training programmes. Bilateral trade began to grow in line with military ties.

Since 2017, just three years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, India has been a strategic partner and co-producer of Israeli weapons, with the two countries conducting joint military drills and hosting police and army exchange visits.

Since Modi entered office in 2014, around 42 percent of all arms exports from Israel have gone to India. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), weapons deliveries to India from Israel increased by 175 percent between 2015 and 2019. The two countries have also expanded their cooperation in cyber-security in recent years.

On the economic front, between 1992 and 2021, bilateral trade soared to $6.35bn in 2021 from just $200m in 1992.

Muslims targeted

Under the BJP government, the strengthening of relations between India and Israel has moved beyond economic interests to ideological synergy.

The common thread uniting them is far-right nationalism, which calls for the exclusion, if not expulsion, of all others who do not adhere to the exclusivist identity they’ve assigned to the state.

In this context, the figure of the Muslim has become a target of violence in India, while for the Israeli state, Palestinians are an impediment to colonial expansion; for the Hindu nationalists of the BJP, Muslims represent the corruption of a purist Hindu nation. This is a Palestinisation of the Indian Muslims.

The adoption of Israeli tactics has been explicitly promoted by Indian diplomat Sandeep Chakravorty, who in 2019 asserted that Hindus should adopt the Israel model in Indian-occupied Kashmir. It is thus not surprising that in Kashmir, the Indian army uses civilians as human shields, just as Israel does in the occupied Palestinian territories. This illegal practice is internationally condemned.

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