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Agriculture, water, innovation and health key sectors for India-Israel cooperation

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Swept to power in 2014 with the biggest single party majority in decades, India’s Narendra Modi seeks further gains in West Bengal. (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

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As we speak, the West Bengal legislative elections are ongoing. According to the Indian Express, “The ongoing assembly elections in West Bengal acquire significance not only because they may define the state and the country’s future, but the limits of the BJP and its Hindutva juggernaut could also be tested.” 

The BJP is the ruling party in India, headed by Narendra Modi, a close friend of the State of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  

In light of this, Israelis and Jewish Canadians should watch very closely what happens in these elections, as they may determine the future of India. If the BJP can win in West Bengal, they will be even stronger than they were before and this could benefit Israel, as they are a pro-Israel party. However, if they lose, Indian-Israeli relations likely could remain as they are today and this could potentially limit the potential for growth.     

“Ironically, Muslims, constituting 27 per cent of the state’s population, could have a big role in deciding this fate,” the Indian Express noted. “Muslim votes matter in 125 assembly constituencies where they are more than 20 per cent and in not less than 59 constituencies where they constitute more than 40 per cent.” 

In other words, these elections could determine whether Modi’s power will be strengthened or weakened, and this could have an impact on Indian-Israeli relations.  

Shipan Kumer Basu, who heads the World Hindu Struggle Committee, stressed that Hindus could have been more influential in this election in assisting the BJP, but that opportunity was lost: “After 1947 and 1971, after being persecuted by the fundamentalists and tortured in various ways, many Hindus from Bangladesh took refuge in different states of India. More than half of them are living in West Bengal. The BJP promised to grant citizenship to refugees from Bangladesh. But they made a law in 2003 that all those who came to India from Bangladesh after 1971 are illegal.”

“Even today that law has not been amended,” he added. “Meanwhile, the Citizen Amendment Act passed in 2019 states that only those who came to India before December 31, 2014 will get Indian citizenship. Surprisingly, two years after the passage of the Citizens Amendment Act-2019, the BJP government has so far failed to grant citizenship to anyone under the act. As a result, there is no reason to think that the votes of Hindus from Bangladesh will go only to the BJP. All Hindus from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan should be granted Indian citizenship.”  

Nevertheless, even if the BJP were to lose these elections, Indian-Israeli relations are likely to remain strong. 

“We’ve had diplomatic relations for almost 30 years. Next year in 2022, we will celebrate our 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations,” Rony Yedeida-Klein, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy, told the Guardian Live about Indian-Israeli relations. “Over these years, we have seen these relations grow and become more visible and more important. I think that we can say that the visibility of these relations has really become great; we seek cooperation in the fields of agriculture and water, and innovation and health.”

“Just this past year, we’ve been putting a lot to work, working together on fighting Covid-19,” she added. “We’ve signed an MoU between the two countries in order to help grow the cooperation in the field of health, but also in other aspects as well as innovation and water. We’re working together with the government of UP on a big water project in the Bundelkhand region. Our centers of excellence in agriculture around the country are bringing new technologies to Indian farmers. So there’s really quite a lot that we’ve been cooperating on and I’m very happy to be a part of them.”

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Even if BJP loses the election, Basu added that the BJP has not traditionally controlled West Bengal anyways, so any loss there will not cause a deterioration in Indian-Israeli relations.

“The CPM and TMC have shown absolute dominance in the last assembly elections. The CPM, led by Jyoti Basu, has ruled the state for 34 years and Mamata for 10 years. This time the turn is different, neither the CPM nor the TMC can think of coming to power alone. However, for various reasons, the popularity of the CPM is now at the bottom. The TMC has already given rise to much controversy.”

“On the other hand, the BJP is desperate to form a government in the state,” he explained. “The BJP is in a much better position this time than in any other election. In 2019, the BJP was able to win 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. Following in his footsteps, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is dreaming of forming a government in the state under the leadership of Dilip Ghosh. The total number of seats in the Bidhan Sabha is 294. 148 seats are needed to form a single government.” 

Thus, if the BJP wins the West Bengal elections, it will be a game changer for Modi’s political power and a powerful Modi will be much freer to advance Indian-Israeli relations, despite the country’s vast Muslim minority. 

For this reason, Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, met with West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh in 2019 and told him that Israel strongly supports the West Bengal BJP.     

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings at the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”  

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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