At the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi the “most popular person in Israel,” who “restarted the relationship between Israel and India, which is a unique relationship between two civilizations. It’s not about interests. It is about a deep conviction you harbor, and we feel it.”
Next year, Israel and India will celebrate 30 years of full diplomatic relations. Under the Netanyahu government, the friendship between Israel and India reached its peak due to the close personal friendship between Modi and Bibi, a trend which Prime Minister Bennett hopes to continue. The question remains, why is Modi so popular in the Jewish state?
Shipan Kumer Basu, who heads the World Hindu Struggle Committee, stated: “In 2017, Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. Since that day, the two countries have only looked forwards and not backwards. In the last seven years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has signed many bilateral agreements with Israel, which have benefited the people of both countries.”
Basu noted that Israel and India are “working together in the fields of counter-terrorism, defense, agriculture, water and energy. India is Israel’s third largest trading partner in Asia since 2014. Excluding defense trade, trade between the two countries amounts to $4.52 billion. In 2016, India and Israel signed a huge military agreement worth $600 billion.” More recently, Israel and India agreed to jointly develop drones, artificial intelligence and more in the framework of the Bilateral Innovation Agreement.
“Under the agreement, startups and industry of both countries will work together to bring out next-generation technologies and products in the areas such as drones, robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum technology, photonics, biosensors, brain-machine interface, energy storage, wearable devices, natural language processing, etc,” India’s defense ministry said in a statement. This came after Israel and India signed a 10-year defense cooperation agreement.
It should not be surprising that all of this cooperation has influenced what average Indians think. “Not only the policymakers, but the people of India have more sympathy for Israel than any other country,” Basu emphasized, noting that antisemitism historically has never been part of Indian culture. “According to an international poll conducted in 2011, 56 percent of Americans are sympathetic toward the State of Israel. In India, 59% support the State of Israel.”
This represents a drastic shift, as India in the past was part of the non-aligned movement and thus was more sympathetic to what the Third World had to say about Israel. Historically, Mahatma Gandhi and his successors were very sympathetic toward the Palestinian cause for this reason, yet Modi changed this common sentiment within his country and made India a more pro-Israel country. Due to India’s ongoing tensions with Pakistan over the Kashmir region and history of fighting against radical Islamism, Modi feels that India has more in common with Israel than it does with the Palestinians.
“There were no Muslims in India before the Mughal invasion,” Basu noted. “When the Mughals came to India, they destroyed Hindu temples, Gurukulas and universities, built mosques and minarets in their place and started an illegal occupation. During the 500 years of Mughal rule, they caused irreparable damage to the Hindus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working to make up for that loss.”
Basu added, “Narendra Modi has taken a landmark step in establishing a Ram temple in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram Chandra. Narendra Modi has taken steps to save the birthplace of Lord Krishna ‘Madhura Nagari’ from Muslim occupation. Narendra Modi has taken steps to rescue part of the Kashi Bishwanath temple in Varanasi from Muslim occupation. Narendra Modi has been able to win the hearts of Hindus by taking these bold steps.”
According to Basu, “Modi also lifted Article 307 from Kashmir, which has been lauded by many Indians.” Many pundits in the media across the Islamic world compared this action to the proposed Israeli annexation of Judea and Samaria, but many Indian Hindus nevertheless support lifting Article 307, since like the Zionist Movement they believe that it is their historic right to do so, as they view Kashmir to be an integral part of India, just as many Zionists view Judea and Samaria to be part of the State of Israel.
While radical Islamists have systematically attacked Hindus and executed numerous terror attacks in India, including a murderous attack upon the Indian Parliament in 2001 that killed 9 and the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 that killed 175, the Jewish people have been great friends historically of the Hindu nation. According to Basu, “Israel announced in May that it would stand by friendly India, sending emergency medical assistance, including oxygen generators, respirators, medicines, and additional medical equipment, as the COVID-19 pandemic reached its climax in the country. This takes the relations between the two countries to a higher level.”
Furthermore, the Indian people have fully reciprocated these sentiments. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, New Delhi’s envoy in the United States, stated: “India is one of the few countries with no record of antisemitism, either historically or in modern times. It is because Indian society is known for its openness and compassion, embodying the core principle of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam, meaning the world is one family. The Jews have flourished, and their traditions and practices have thrived in India.” For these reasons, Modi remains the most popular world leader in the Jewish state in the eyes of many.