All eyes are on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel
 
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The Road to Jerusalem

All eyes are on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel

Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty
 

In early July, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerges from his aircraft at Ben Gurion International airport, located midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and sets foot on the soil of Israel, he will create history. He will be the first Indian PM to visit Israel after the founding of the Jewish State in 1948. The timing is apt since India and Israel will mark a quarter of a century of having formal diplomatic relations. India and Israel were born as independent nations within nine months of each other in 1947 and 1948 respectively. Partition was a common feature of their creation and that of Pakistan which became a so-called homeland for some Muslims in the Indian sub-continent. Thus, Israel, a homeland for the Jewish people, and Pakistan, shared this aspect of their caesarian births. There was nothing else in common.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 had called for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Arthur James Balfour was the UK’s foreign secretary and his declaration was an expression of gratitude to the British Jewish community for its help in World War I. The year 1917 also saw the defeat of the Ottoman forces in Palestine. General Edmund Allenby led Allied troops that included a contingent of Indian soldiers to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem. Subsequently, Indian soldiers were handpicked to guard the Muslim holy sites. Since the Crusades, Palestine and Jerusalem were under Ottoman rule since 1517 CE. In Israel mortal remains of India soldiers are interned at two Commonwealth cemeteries.

Israel was carved out as a homeland for the Jewish people from the old British-administered Mandate of Palestine, the other country being Palestine. While India accepted Pakistan as a new country, the Arab and Muslim countries never reconciled to the Jewish state in the heart of Arab lands. Eventually, on 17 September 1950, India officially recognised the State of Israel. Then Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru said, ‘We would have [recognised Israel] long ago, because Israel is a fact. We refrained because of our desire not to offend the sentiments of our friends in the Arab countries.’ Thereafter, the Jewish Agency established an immigration office in Bombay. This was later converted into a Trade Office and subsequently into a Consulate. Embassies were opened in 1992 when full diplomatic relations were established. Currently, except for Egypt and Jordan, no other Arab or Muslim country has diplomatic relations with Israel.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President of Israel Reuven Rivlin and representatives from both nations
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President of Israel Reuven Rivlin and representatives from both nations

 
 
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