Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not the most popular Head of Government on the globe. There are countries where he would not be entirely welcome, were he to visit their capitals. And there are countries such as the United States and India, the two largest democracies in the world, that are certain to give him a cordial and heartfelt welcome. Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke longstanding precedent to visit not simply the State of Israel, but the city that has for millennia exercised a powerful hold on the Jewish people, Jerusalem. Indeed, the Israeli national anthem talks of a time when that city will revert to being the home city of the entire Jewish nation, a situation that took place in 1967, with the victory of Israel over its principal Arab foes in the Six-Day War. Netanyahu is cut from the same cloth as Modi, in that both are unapologetic about standing up for what each perceives to be the interests of his country. Small wonder that both men get along so well together, and that neither is bashful about showing this to the world, including those countries that for decades have declaimed against the Jewish state, and some of which openly and repeatedly call for its destruction. Among the latter category is Iran, and it is a sign of the maturity of the relationship between the two oldest democracies in Asia that the differing approaches to Iran of Delhi and Jerusalem do not in any way come in the way of ever increasing cooperation between the two. Not all the friends of Israel are friends of India, and not all the enemies of Israel are enemies of India, a situation that applies in the other direction as well. Agreeing to disagree and moving on from such differences in view are essential in a stable relationship, and over time, the ties between India and Israel have become a fixture of diplomacy in both countries. It would be churlish to forget that Israel has rushed to the assistance of India in each instance when this country was under threat and especially when it was under attack. The help given has been unflinching and generous, and it is a welcome sign that Prime Minister Modi has been bold and honest enough to acknowledge the bonds between Israel and India, ties that will be in public view during the Netanyahu visit.
In Modi’s pragmatic foreign policy, close relations with the United States are a priority, perhaps the highest priority. Setting aside any personal feelings caused by the opportunistic (because motivated by a desire to please the UPA) denial of a visa to then Chief Minister Modi by first the George W. Bush and later the Barack Obama administrations. It must be said to the credit of President Obama that he too dismissed any trace of such an unwholesome past by giving Prime Minister Modi an extremely warm welcome in Washington, despite those in the administration who wanted a more low-key reception to the newly elected Head of Government of the Republic of India. This was probably among the reasons why Modi quickly established a personal rapport with Obama that has lasted to this day, although it must be added that Netanyahu and Obama are not each other’s favourite persons. In contrast, the 45th President of the United States, Donald John Trump, has a very close friendship with his Israeli counterpart and interestingly, has built a strong and practical relationship with Prime Minister Modi. When the two leaders meet, they do so as friends, a circumstance that indicates that India and the US will build an alliance that would have been the dream of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had both been given the longevity in office needed to convert their wishes into reality. In the case of Trump as well, despite his often expressed antipathy towards Tehran, the US Head of State has refused to rise to the bait and damage India-US relations by publicly condemning such examples of Iran-India cooperation as the Chabahar port, which would have been as much under the control of China as Gwadar, were India not to have joined hands with Iran in opening such a channel for trade between India and Central Asia, a channel that Pakistan has consistently denied to India despite this country giving Islamabad the Most Favoured Nation status. The visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu is welcome not only because he comes from a civilisation that rivals India in its historicity, or represents a people that has overcome millennia of suffering to finally establish a homeland of their own in the land that gave birth to their faith. It is welcome as a herald of a world free of terrorism and extremism, a situation that both countries are working so hard to ensure.