The right alliance

Following the defeat of Georgia and the collapse of Israel’s military-diplomatic investment there, a reevaluation of Israel’s priorities in establishing alliances is in order.

Forced to play David in a neighborhood of threatening Goliaths, Jerusalem has for decades sought out other Davids: the Kurds, to offset Iraq; the South Lebanon Army, to offset the PLO and Hizbullah, and against Syrian influence in Lebanon in general; Turkey (large but fairly weak, and an “ally” with very little loyalty) to offset Syria and Iran; and Georgia and Azerbaijan, to offset Iran and Russia.

The track record of these alliances is not encouraging, with results ranging from horrendous to only nominally worthwhile. There is a lesson in Israel’s poor showing in alliance-building outside the Western world, and it is this: The Jewish state may play the part of David well, but others don’t. It’s time to join forces with a Goliath.

This is what makes the revelation that the commander of the IDF’s ground forces paid a visit to Kashmir last week to speak with Indian troops about counter-terrorism strategy such welcome news.

It isn’t that Israeli-Indian cooperation is new; far from it. India is the largest purchaser of Israeli-made weaponry (note the photo of an Indian soldier holding an Israeli-made assault rifle, to the right), and economic ties are expanding nicely. What is encouraging is the thought (or, perhaps more accurately, the wishful thinking) that the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry just might be coming around to the idea that India deserves much, much more attention than it has gotten thusfar.

With 1 billion people, a rapidly expanding economy, the strongest military in the vicinity, maritime access to Pakistan and Iran – and a major problem with Muslim terrorism stemming from the dispute over control of Kashmir – India has the potential to be Israel’s most important strategic partner after the United States.

We already have ties to India’s diamond and hi-tech industries. We already have convinced the Indians of the value of our military hardware and our know-how in fighting Islamic terrorism and insurgency. But we can do more on these fronts, and on others, as well. For example, we have the ability to help India develop a more efficient farm system to feed its massive poor, and to generate electricity from its scorching sun.

Outside of its youngsters’ drugs-filled pilgrimages to the beaches of Goa and their reckless treks through India’s enchantingly dangerous mountains, Israel pays very little attention to India. In fact, since Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli prime minister to visit India in 2003, neither Ehud Olmert nor his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has followed suit. It’s time to make amends for these mistakes by significantly increasing Israel’s profile on the subcontinent, in an effort to make the Jewish state a valuable friend and ally in New Delhi and Mumbai.


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