Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


India’s Elections: Beyond the Promise of Narendra Modi

India’s Elections: Beyond the Promise of Narendra Modi

by Owen Alterman, Hriday Sarma
INSS Insight No. 551, May 19, 2014

www.inss.org.il/index.aspx?id=4538&articleid=6999

With the recent end of the long-running 2014 parliamentary elections in India, the winds of change may hit the Asian giant’s relationship with Israel. For the first time in a decade, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is returning to power, having scored a decisive victory in the preliminary voting tally. The BJP’s charismatic leader, Narendra Modi, is a strong supporter of Israel, and his personality and presence might transform Indian-Israeli relations. The open question is whether Modi’s personal inclinations can overcome the limits of India’s geopolitics.

Modi’s rise has been spectacular, and to a certain extent, controversial. In 2002, Hindus killed between 900 and 2,000 Muslims during riots in the state of Gujarat where Modi served as chief minister. Many left wing politicians and some parts of the public pointed a finger at Modi for what they viewed as his administration’s insufficient response. In 2005, the United States even revoked Modi’s visa because of his connection with the riots. For years, Modi was persona non grata in many Indian circles and in many Western countries. Then, in 2010, an Indian Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team largely exonerated Modi for involvement in the riots. Yet even during the years of controversy, Modi was able to emerge as the chief architect of his state by boosting the GDP of Gujarat over the years; Gujarat’s compound annual rate of GDP growth was 13.4 percent under Modi, far outpacing that of India overall at 7.8 percent during the same period. Furthermore, Modi has continued to strive to make Gujarat a “global business hub,” with considerable success. A key ingredient in the success story was a policy of encouraging foreign direct investment in Gujarat, including a great deal from Israel.

Contacts with Israel have been particularly important for Modi. In recent years, Modi has visited Israel, staying with the head of the India-Israel chamber of commerce and meeting with Israeli businessmen and entrepreneurs. Gujarat has continued to be the world’s leading center for diamond-cutting, positioning it at an important point in the supply chain of a signature Israeli industry. Modi sought to expand the relationship beyond diamonds and to forge ties with Israel's state of the art h-tech sector in the fields of micro- and drip irrigation, biotechnology, and others. Israel’s ports company is also a key player in a consortium building a deep-water port in Gujarat. Modi has likewise shown interest in pushing forward the Indian-Israeli free trade agreement currently under consideration.

For the Indian public, though, Modi’s most important achievement was in raising living standards in Gujarat at a time when the overall Indian economy stuttered. That, coupled with perceived lackluster leadership in the rival Indian National Congress-ruled states in the country such as New Delhi and Assam, made Modi well-positioned for India’s recent parliamentary elections. The last of India’s voters went to the polls on May 12, 2014, and preliminary results were released on May 16. The results made it official: Modi and the BJP will form the new national government.

The victory by Modi presents opportunities but also challenges for Israel. On the one hand, Modi’s strength of personality and charisma positions him as a potential opinion leader for hundreds of millions in India’s rising middle class. That rising middle class is a key part of the rising middle classes of Asia that will become the pillar of global economic and political power in coming decades. In a best-case scenario, Modi could not only be an Asian Stephen Harper, and like the Canadian Prime Minister, an outspoken friend of Israel on the international stage; he could expand the Indian-Israeli relationship with immediate economic and political benefits for Israel and prime Indian public opinion to be well-disposed toward Israel into the longer term.

At the same time, that rosy scenario will likely need to come to terms with geopolitical realities. To the Indian establishment, Iran is a strategic partner that churns out oil that India needs and sits astride Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, traditional invasion routes into the subcontinent. The Gulf states are home to millions of Indian workers whose remittances power the economy in the state of Kerala and elsewhere. The politics of the United Nations also limit the benefits of diplomatic support for Israel, with Arab and Muslim states controlling dozens of votes and Israel commanding only one. Unlike Stephen Harper’s Canada, India is a developing country in a difficult security neighborhood. Narendra Modi may not have the freedom to pursue a full-fledged pro-Israel agenda.

Within these limits, though, Indian policy could shift somewhat. During the term of the last BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the tune from New Delhi changed for the better. Modi could reignite that spark and even go a bit further, given his personal investment in this relationship. For Israeli policymakers, the clear recommendation is to seek out Modi, welcome his election, and engage him in efforts to find ways to deepen and expand ties with this important rising power.

The less obvious but equally important recommendation is to maintain support for Israel across the Indian political spectrum. On balance, the BJP has traditionally been more supportive of Israel, but in recent decades most Congress politicians have also shown goodwill. Just as bipartisan support has shielded the US-Israel relationship from the increasing partisanship of Washington, so too continued outreach to all major players in Indian politics could build an important foundation for a relationship that could prove ever more important--and hopefully, ever closer-- in the decades to come. The rise of Narendra Modi is Israel’s opportunity. Balancing that with a relationship with the wider Indian political spectrum is Israel’s challenge.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Bernie Sanders Aftermath

Even as Bernie Sanders was celebrating his win yesterday in New Hampshire, the road ahead for the Sanderistas seemed as dark as ever. The notion that the Sanders victory has shaken the Democratic Party to its core and is causing furrowed, worried brows etc among the party mandarins is complete nonsense. More>>

ALSO:

Franklin Lamb From The Middle East: Social Control Is Emerging As ISIS (Da’ish) Motive

It is widely recognized that the damage done to our cultural heritage in Syria and to the heritage of those who will follow us, cannot be calculated... Heretofore, three varying but cogent explanations for ISIS’ rabid destruction of our shared cultural heritage have been commonplace. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Myopia Of The Business News

Listening to the business news is a bit like eavesdropping on the radio transmissions from space aliens. There is no discernible connection between the concerns of the captains of these space ships – the bank economists and the finance house spokesmen – and the concerns of ordinary listeners back on Planet Earth. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Clinton, Sanders, Trump And Cruz

Come November, the world will have a new US president-elect and the least unlikely winner still looks to be Hillary Clinton. Right now though, the polls are showing a rocky stretch ahead for her in the immediate future. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Sean Penn And El Chapo - Vanity, Hollywood And Reportage

Leaving aside Sean Penn’s personal history with drug use, let alone alleged efforts to get a slice of celebrity in portraying a drug lord, the furore surrounding his interview with El Chapo is instructive in a few respects. One is worth noting: the blind rage it has provoked with some US political figures and advocates who show how utterly lacking in understanding they are of their own liberal market system... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Podemos, And Spain’s Election Stalemate

By hard grassroots effort, it convincingly rejected the fragmented, individualising forces that had shaped political life for the past few decades – instead, it organized its supporters on the basis of their common, communal experience via collective decision-making aimed at rolling back (a) the austerity-driven cutbacks in public services and (b) the home evictions of those unable to meet their mortgage payments. More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Merkel, Refugees And The Cologne Attacks

Huge pressure was already on Angela Merkel’s shoulders prior to the New Year celebrations. When it came in its waves of chaos on the eve, the security services in Cologne were found wanting. The police document from Cologne, leaked to Der Spiegel, speaks of chaos and lack of control. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news