Will the Israel-GCC Alliance Prop Up Hindu Nationalist India?
Agha Hussain– Indo-Israeli ties have always been deep and underscored by ideological affinity, with Israel even in the years prior to having full diplomatic ties with New Delhi assisting India in its wars with Pakistan and China in the 1960s onwards. India’s trade ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have also boomed, both before and after India ceased importing oil from Iran due to US sanctions and thus removed the economic underpinning of its relations with the prime target of the Israel-GCC bloc.
As reported by Sputnik New Delhi on 9 December 2019, Israel recently invited India to become part of a regional trade corridor would connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf by spanning across Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iraq. Israel has proposed developing greater connectivity between the Gulf of Oman and India’s broad coastline as part of a plan to greatly enhance Indo-Israeli trade.
The corridor is yet another policy emerging from Israel with which it seeks to augment and institutionalize its alliance with the GCC. More specifically, it is another one of the ideas borne of the top-heavy Israel-GCC alliance, ‘managed’ thus far by the notorious White House de-facto ‘advisor’ and ardent Zionist Jared Kushner’s personal rapport with the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).
Like other policies to emerge from this informal yet ideologically-driven arrangement, it is poorly-thought out, inherently flawed and highly Iran-centric. The very placement of Iraq, where Iran has immense strategic depth in essentially all sectors of society, military and economy and, in this Israel-GCC trade corridor exemplifies contemporary Israel-GCC strategic maneuvering.
Iraq, where the degree of anti-Zionism in the national psyche can be seen from the fact that its people began destroying their country’s own pipelines post-2003 US invasion once neoconservative plans to construct a pipeline from Kirkuk to Israel’s Haifa Port were publicized, with or without Iran would be dead-opposed to such a corridor.
That India has been embraced by the Israel-GCC alliance – not individually by Israel and the GCC but by them as a bloc – shows both Israel’s regard for its old ally in South Asia. It also shows Israel’s conviction that a propped-up India can bolster the shaky foundations of the trade corridor.
An India with greater backing by Israel against its regional enemies will produce a geopolitically explosive situation in South Asia.
The reason for this is because India’s enemies in South Asia have long been Muslims in general and now more clearly than at any time before. That the most virulent, primordially-driven manifestations in history of this enmity toward Muslims have involved India’s own Muslim minority as opposed to Pakistan makes this amply clear.
Hindutva’s war with Muslims
Hindutva in India is represented by the ‘Sangh Parivar’ group of organizations which emerged from and are affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founded in 1925 by KB Hedgewar. The RSS’ political front is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) currently ruling the center. Other major partners involve the religious party Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the militant organization Bajrang Dal.
Vinayak Savarkar, who inspired Hedgewar to found the RSS, was responsible for formulating and also coining the term ‘Hindutva’. Hindutva proposes that only Hindus are true ‘Indians’ and sees the history of Muslim presence in ‘Mother India’ as a blight.
Savarkar epitomized the Hindutva view of Muslims in his book ‘Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History’ where he, after a declaration that Muslims were duty-bound to kidnap and forcibly convert non-Muslim women, justified raping Muslim women as a tool to deter Muslim transgressions against Hindus. Savarkar chastised ancient Hindu figures who did not engage in the act with female Muslim prisoners, stating that their ‘chivalry’ emboldened Muslim abuse of Hindu women.
With regard to the over 70 year long Kashmir dispute with Pakistan, Hindu nationalism played a major part in leading to India’s military occupation of the part of Kashmir that it currently holds and where military tensions with Pakistan are high.
The RSS partook in a mass-slaughter of 237 000 Muslims in the Muslim-majority princely state of Jammu and Kashmir by its despotic Hindu Maharaja in October 1947. With British India having been partitioned on 14 August 1947 to yield the two new states of India and Pakistan, territories such as Jammu and Kashmir were left to decide via a democratic process of referendum and in consideration of their peoples’ wishes.
The massacre happened before any Pakistani armed presence in the state – prior to which even Indian regulars had been brought in to prop up the Maharaja’s regime against a rising and increasingly pro-Pakistan domestic insurgency that predated the independence of India and Pakistan by a few months.
The RSS’ erstwhile chief Madhav Golwalkar held a key role in instigating the Maharaja toward the Jammu Genocide. Golwalkar – whose seminal book Bunch of Thoughts posited that all Muslims in India were the result of forced conversions by Muslim invaders and had to be converted ‘back to Hindus’ – had been personally dispatched to Kashmir by Indian Home Minister and close confidante of India’s iconic first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhai Patel.
By the time the Indo-Pakistani 1947-48 fighting over Kashmir ceased, the part of Kashmir India occupied would remain till date deprived of a free and fair referendum. India would go on to apply various lies and distortions of history to justify its occupation of Kashmir which in their origins and patterns are not dissimilar from the propaganda Israel utilizes vis a vis its own existence and denial of Palestinians their land and rights.
A point of no return: Doubling down on the Hindutva agenda
India, presently BJP-led, recently passed a highly controversial bill called the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB). The CAB upturned previous legislation which, in response to resentment in India’s northeast against illegal immigration from neighboring Bangladesh, decreed citizenship would only be afforded to those entering India prior to 25 March 1971 (a date which for reasons beyond the scope of this writing precipitated a flood of immigrants into India).
Assam, in particular, has seen heavy Muslim immigration since 1971 which has rapidly driven the proportion of Muslims in its population higher, from 30.9 to 34.2 percent between 2001 and 2011.
Censuses could not be conducted in Assam between 1971-2001 due to security issues, but the 1961 census showed its Muslim percentage at roughly the same as in 2011 thus rendering doubtful Sangh propaganda throughout the 70s onward regarding a ‘Muslim invasion’.
The CAB grants opportunity for citizenship via a naturalization process to people having migrated to India on the pretext of religious persecution before 31 December 2014 instead of before 25 March 1971. However, it specifically excludes Muslims from naturalization based upon the BJP’s claim that only non-Muslims might face persecution in India’s neighborhood and migrate to it.
Given India’s history, this also enables more organized anti-Muslim pogroms. It comes on the back of previous legislation helping further the Hindutva agenda: the National Register of Citizens (NCR) published in August for the state of Assam which contains one of the largest populations of Muslim immigrants.
Under the NCR, everyone is supposed to prove citizenship or be declared illegal. The latest NCR already listed nearly 2 million ‘illegals’ (i.e those that arrived after 25 March 1971).
Detention centers have also been built for illegals in Assam. While technically the CAB will provide relief against detention to illegals that are not Muslim by allowing them to undergo naturalization, the scenario looks grim for Muslims.
Notably, the BJP wishes to extend the NRC to the entirety of India. The combined effect of the CAB with the NRC lessens the danger of millions unable to furnish documentary evidence of their ancestry being detained or deported – but only for non-Muslims.
Alongside this, the Supreme Court – under whose monitoring the NRC has taken place in Assam since 2013 – on 10 November gave another major boost to the Sangh agenda with its verdict on the Ayodhya dispute.
On 6 December 1992, a massive crowd of RSS workers gathered under the leadership of then-BJP President LK Advani in front of the Babri Masjid, a Mughal Empire-era mosque from the 16th Century located in Ayodhya city, state Uttar Pradesh. Based on the claim that the mosque was on top of where the Hindu deity Ram was born, the crowd demolished it and subsequently sparked nationwide riots and organized rioting against Muslims that saw thousands of Muslims killed.
The demolition was pre-planned and 6 December celebrated by the Sangh as ‘Valour Day’. The Supreme Court’s verdict in November allotted all the disputed land to Hindus for construction of the Ram Temple, despite acknowledging the unlawful destruction of the mosque. Suffice to say, it did not initiate any manner of proceedings against the BJP leadership involved in the demolition or even against the then-Congress party (India’s other major party and BJP rival, avowedly ‘secular’) for having allowed the mosque to be constantly desecrated with the placement of Hindu idols inside it between 1984-89 when it ruled the center.
That desecration had contributed to the earlier April-June 1987 Meerut riots, when Muslims from Meerut returning from a mass protest in the capital against the desecration of the Babri Masjid were greeted with accusations of being ‘anti-nationals’ by the Sangh. Advani led the escalatory rhetoric, reiterating the salient Sangh stance that only those that accepted Ram could be true Muslims. During the riots, the state effectively sided with the Sangh militias, with the worst such instance being when the state Provincial Armed Constabulary offloaded 42 arrested Muslims from a truck headed to the police station, shot them dead and deposited their bodies in a canal.
All in all, communal tensions in India have skyrocketed with the BJP’s recent moves making it clear to India’s Muslims that their ties with the Hindu mainstream may well be past the point of no return.
Mass protests, starting with the northeast which the military has been deployed to deal with, are spreading nationwide. Instances of Indian police storming mosques and firing at Muslim students inside school and college campuses have gone viral. Multiple countries have issued travel advisories against the India’s northeast.
In short, India’s full-frontal war against Muslims in its region ascends to new heights while Israel and the GCC court it together.
The Israel Lobby’s stewardship of Indian Americans and Hindu nationalism
Indian Americans have effectively lobbied the US Congress in favor of India in the past. Examples of such successes in securing US support to India were the passing of amendment HR 277 by 22 votes in the House of Representatives during the 1999 Indo-Pakistan Kargil conflict threatening Pakistan with sanctions unless it withdrew its troops from the Indian-held part of Kashmir and the approval of significantly large numbers of Congress members in 2004 for the Indo US Civil Nuclear Agreement.
The Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans had introduced HR 277. In 2004, the newly-formed Senate India Caucus, together with participation by other Indian American organizations, lobbied 180 members in the House of Representatives Caucus and 39 Senators belonging to the India Caucus to vote in favor of the Nuclear Agreement despite reservations expressed from the State Department.
Notably, the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans was formed in 1993 by New York Congressman Stephen Solarz who envisioned mobilizing Indian-Americans the way Jews mobilized for Israel. Solarz was what has over the years become an extremely common fixture in US politics: a Congress member overly enthusiastic with unconditional support for Israel because of heavy reliance on Jewish campaign funding for re-election.
The late Paul Findley, ex-Congress member and prolific author on the topic of Israel Lobby influence over US Congress, said in a 1994 article of Solarz:
‘Through the years, he was unabashedly pro-Israel. In a public hearing one day on legislation to extend U.S. aid to Israel, he demanded to know: “Is there anything that the Israelis want from us, or could conceivably want from us that they weren’t able to get [in pending legislation]?” Assured by the presiding congressman that the legislation had actually been cleared with the Israeli embassy, Solarz relaxed with this astounding observation: “If they have no problem with it, there is no reason for us to.” It would be difficult to construct a dialogue more blatantly biased for the interests of a foreign country.’
In 1993, Solarz sought an Ambassadorial stint to India under President Bill Clinton’s first term but failed to get it due to FBI findings of his financial misconduct. Solarz had a pro-India past as well as pro-Israeli, having lobbied against a Sikh separatist-sponsored amendment in 1989 that would make development assistance to India contingent upon police officers involved in rape in Indian Punjab being punished.
Solarz became a household name for the increasingly-political Indian-American community, which in the 90s also saw increasing Sangh influence and outreach to the Israel Lobby out of Hindutva fondness for Zionism.
Israel’s goodwill as a buffer for India against socio-political ostracization
Pakistan’s ill-fated efforts to ‘lobby’ the US to pressurize India over matters such as Kashmir predictably constantly fail, but India is still no Israel. It cannot prevent voices such as career officials in the State Department or even the liberal mainstream media of the US, which has traditionally hailed India’s ‘democratic’ character, taking issue with its over-the-top extremism and thus creating irritants in India’s external ties which it is not used to dealing with.
Israel’s Lobby, however, has exercised the ability to censor and destroy careers in US politics and media who have complained of its disregard for international law, basic human rights and long history of sabotage and espionage against the US itself.
Israel has clearly elevated the ally status of India, Israel’s largest defense export market, high enough to warrant its inclusion into Israel’s reckless adventures with the GCC. With the numerous weaknesses in the Israel-GCC trade corridor, in Jared Kushner’s proposed GCC-financed ‘Deal of the Century’ for Palestine and in Israel’s GCC partners’ disastrous war in Yemen, Israel may afford top priority to extending India special assistance.
When it comes to Israel, this special assistance might well take the shape of the same censorship-and-intimidation model that has been wielded against opponents of Israeli policies in the US.
Notwithstanding India’s constant pestering of Twitter over the years to ban accounts criticizing it, it is unable to stem the tide of negative publicity it is now receiving. Special friends such as Israel with the ability to weed out dissent through draconian Lobby-induced legislation, massive coordinated media smear campaigns and even mass-spying on activists working to expose their sinister policies, may well lend India a helping hand.
With Israel’s support as a potential buffer against any manner of foreign-imposed consequences for its policies, India would double down on its Hindutva policies and communal conflagration in South Asia would continue to deepen.
Considering the simmering crucible that India presently represents and considering Israel’s long history of promotion of anti-Muslim sentiment, the question as to whether Israel invited India to the Israel-GCC trade corridor to strengthen its economic foundations and feasibility or to introduce Hindutva to the Middle East is indeed a tricky one.