Indian-Israeli Relations Valuable To India's Thesis


' Indians across the political spectrum, especially the country's powerful nuclear weapons establishment, are critical of the NPT, arguing that it unfairly warps international hierarchies to the disadvantage of the non-nuclear-weapon states" (1998:15). In its efforts to balance the pressures from the international community with its own self-interests in formulating foreign policies, the position adopted by India has been starkly different than other countries. In this regard, Karp concludes that, "Most states party to the NPT accept the unfairness of the treaty as a tradeoff that serves their own and global interests. India's leaders insist that fair and genuine nuclear disarmament must start with the nuclear-weapon states themselves, a demand formalized by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in his 1990 global nuclear disarmament initiative" (Karp 1998:14). As a result of these events, the 20th century witnessed the formation of various positions in Indian foreign policy that would endure throughout the Cold War era and beyond (Wadlow 2003). These foreign policy positions were primarily based on India's official foreign policy of nonalignment, an approach that was adopted early on in an effort to help India maintain its independence and navigate its way in a bipolar world (Ghoshal 2003). According to Ghoshal, India's foreign policy of nonalignment "was aimed at drawing economic and technological aid for development from both powers as well as to provide an alternative model of international relations in a world which was then intensely bipolar" (2003:521). The objectives of India's foreign policy was to establish a buffer zone between the polarized blocs of the international community and minimize the potential for conflict with an ultimate goal of creating a new world order in which there were more than two primary spheres of influence (Ghoshal 2003). According to Ghoshal, the nonalignment stance adopted by India provided the country with influence that far outweighed its economic and military clout. For instance, Ghoshal notes that nonalignment "made it possible for India to maintain normal relations with all the major world powers, with varying degrees of warmth and intimacy, while facilitating the flow of technical and financial assistance from the two ideological blocs. In short, nonalignment gave India the maximum possible dividends in a bipolar world" (2003:521). Clearly, nonalignment during the 20th century was in India's best interests, but nonaligned does not mean disinterested and India's foreign policy has shifted as events required. In this regard, Heo and Horowitz note that, "India's approach to alignment, both during and after the Cold War, is a defining characteristic of Indian foreign policy, but one which was subject to shifts and reinterpretation. Similarly, India's strong stance on disarmament and arms control was based on moral assumptions apparently at odds with its decision to test and deploy nuclear weapons" (2003:139).

In addition, India's propensity to employ military force as a means of achieving political goals has differed dramatically over time since the country's independence (Heo & Horowitz 2003). For example, in 1962, India fought a frontier conflict with China. According to Wadlow, "The conflict was widely considered a defeat for India and India was seen as an unsuccessful state in the international system" (2003:90). This point is also made by Ghoshal who reports, "India's profile and influence, however, were not always balanced during this period; both external and internal factors combined (in the later years of the Nehru era and after), to deprive non-alignment some of its elan and effectiveness" (2003:521). This outcome, of course, was not what Indian policymakers viewed as being in their best interests and even the addition of nuclear capabilities did little to reverse these trends at the time. In this regard, Ghoshal adds that, "Externally, India's defeat at the hands of China in 1962 proved to be a major setback, and the relationship of near-permanent hostility with Pakistan exercised a disabling effect on India's foreign policy. Internally it was seen as a crisis-ridden country with poor economic performance. Militarily, it could not elevate itself to the status of a major power as China did by exercising its nuclear option in 1964 despite its poor economic base" (2003:521).

Based on the widespread perception among the international community that India had been weakened by the conflict with China, India's foreign policy was further constrained concerning which direction the country should turn in its efforts to maintain a nonaligned status while receiving the assistance it so desperately needed to overcome these setbacks. As Ghoshal points out:

Since nothing blights more the image of a nation than failure, the defeat at the hand of the Chinese conjured...


Nothing is forgiven in international relations, least of all the defeat of a country that has the normative pretensions of building a self-reliant and self-sustaining nation. (Ghoshal 2003:521)
In response to these failures on the part of the Indian government, the prime minister was accused by Indian policymakers of having been negligent with respect to the Chinese threat but Nehru died before he could take steps to reverse these perceptions of India as being a weak and ineffective state (Wadlow 2003). His daughter, Indira Gandhi, who was prime minister during the period 1965 to 1977 and 1980 through 1984 when she was assassinated (Wadlow 2003). Prime Minister Gandhi also experienced some distinct challenges during her tenure, and while she made an effort to reformulate India's foreign policy to rebuild India's image abroad, the situation had changed in fundamental ways by the time these efforts were made and they were largely ineffective. In this regard, Wadlow notes that, "Although there were still crises, the Cold War had become stable, and neither Russians nor Americans felt the need for intermediaries (Wadlow 2003:90). Consequently, India shifted its foreign policy directions from the international community to a more regional level, especially the issue of the independence of Bangladesh (Wadlow 2003). As Wadlow points out, "After Nehru, things began to change. The balance slowly tilted in favor of regionalism. While the global policy began to gradually lose its luster, its coherence, its framework, and, what is more, its importance, the broad contours of a regional policy began to emerge -- a policy that was more coherent, more pragmatic, more national-oriented and more forceful" (2003:90).

Thereafter, India's foreign policy became more militaristic in nature. According to Heo and Horowitz, "Under Indira and her son Rajiv Gandhi, Indian foreign policy became more militarized, including a series of provocative military exercises in 1986-87 and a disastrous intervention in Sri Lanka from 1987-90" (2003:141). Therefore, during this era in India's history, the primary focus of Indian foreign policy was directed at regional issues in an effort to extend its influence in ways that would benefit its self-interest. In fact, the 1980s witnessed a brief rise in the influence wielded by the Indian military in formulating foreign policy. According to Heo and Horowitz, "The combination of an inexperienced prime minister (Rajiv Gandhi), a charismatic and intellectual chief of army staff (General K. Sundarji), and a quiet but brilliant civilian administrator and planner (Arun Singh) led to a far more aggressive use of military coercion and much higher defense budgets" (2003:143). In response to Pakistan's nuclear ambitions, India conducted a large military exercise along the border with Pakistan, an exercise that resulted in yet another political crisis for the country (Heo & Horowitz 2003). From Pakistan's perspective, the staging of such an exercise on its border was an alarming escalation in tensions between the two countries that could easily become a full-blown war. In this regard, Heo and Horowitz note that, "This demonstration of Indian military capability, larger than any previous military exercise and including virtually all of India's mechanized units, could easily have been expanded into an actual invasion. Virtually simultaneous maneuvers and exercises were held on the Chinese border, with similar results" (2003:143). In addition, during the 1980s, the Indian military establishment was included as part of the foreign policy planning process for the use of nuclear capabilities (Heo & Horowitz 2003). Taken together, it is apparent that Indian foreign policy has managed to keep the country independent and reasonable secure, but the world stage has changed in the meantime creating the need for additional refinements in Indian foreign policy with regards to states such as Israel, and these issues are discussed further below.

Historical Aspects of Israeli/Indian Relations

The Palestine Question. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Palestinians and many countries in the Arab world placed the blame for continuing violence in the Middle East squarely on the United States for failing to restrain Israel; conversely, Israel cites the tendency for the United States to ignore violence by the Palestinians (Elahi 2002). The Madrid peace process in October 1991, though, served to improve Israel's international stature (Karsh 2003). A willingness to compromise where compromise was never an option was the driving force behind this shift in international perception. According to…

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