Israeli defense minister in India: Deepening web of military ties with apartheid

The Indian government continues to deepen its ties with Israel despite the growing number of voices calling out the latter for its apartheid policies against Palestinians

June 02, 2022 by Apoorva
Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh (left) and Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz. Photo: Rajnath Singh/Twitter

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz arrived in India late Wednesday night, and on June 2, Thursday met his counterpart Rajnath Singh. The two discussed defense cooperation and joint research and development. India and Israel complete 30 years of diplomatic relations this year and such visits are part of this observance.

Prior to 1992, India placed Israel and apartheid South Africa in the same category and had no official ties with either. Now while globally Israel is being recognized as an apartheid state and former presidents, hundreds of MPs, and UN experts, as well as major international human rights organizations are calling for a UN investigation into Israel’s apartheid and imposition of a military embargo, the Indian government is moving in the opposite direction and deepening its complicity with decades of occupation, apartheid and settler colonialism against the Palestinian people.

This time last year, India was just recovering from the hellish second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the denials and politicization of a pandemic, it is irrefutable that thousands of people in India died from lack of oxygen. In the same year, India bought machine guns worth millions of dollars from apartheid Israel that financed its war crimes. How is it that with crumbling health, education and other basic infrastructure, over a billion dollars of Indian public money is spent on Israeli weapons – weapons that are ‘field tested’ on Palestinians and deployed to militarize Indian society? One of the victims of Israeli occupation forces’ criminal violence was veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the Jenin refugee camp. Benny Gantz has recently “rejected” the Palestinian Authority’s probe into her killing which concluded that Abu Akleh was deliberately killed by Israeli forces.

India and Israel are coming together for the joint production of weapons. Recently the Indian Army also placed orders for ‘SkyStriker’ drones to be manufactured in Bengaluru by a joint venture between Israel’s Elbit Systems and India’s Alpha Design Technologies, which is now part of the Adani Group. So apart from supporting militarization, Israel is also profiting from growing privatization of India’s defense sector – the social costs of which would be terrifying. The Pegasus spyware, which has reportedly been used against 300+ journalists, lawyers and activists and can only be sold to states after the approval of Israeli defense ministry is also reportedly part of these ties even if not stated publicly. A New York Times report early this year exposed the use of Pegasus as a diplomatic tool by apartheid Israel, tracing back to the defense agreements signed between Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu during the former’s visit to Israel in 2017, making him the first Indian Prime Minister to do so.

Despite these deepening ties, the resisting people of India connect their struggles for democracy with the Palestinian quest for freedom, justice and equality. Recently, Indian journalists and a women journalists’ union joined the call for an impartial inquiry into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. Indian artists and cultural workers are calling on institutions to stop artwashing apartheid. Unions of farmers, students, women and a growing section of civil society stand with Palestinian rights and support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against apartheid Israel, including a military embargo against apartheid Israel. Across the world and over decades, Israel has been arming authoritarian regimes and entrenching its oppression of Palestinian people. But resistance to oppression, too, is intertwined across the world and justice is indivisible.

Apoorva G is the Asia Pacific coordinator for BDS National Committee