Last night, panelists held a discussion at the Law School regarding what may be an emerging political and cultural alliance between India and Israel. Bwog dispatched not one but two correspondants to the event in order to give readers as well-rounded a perspective as possible. Below, in the second and last part of our series, Josh Mathew presents his take:
Bwoggers, lend me your ears.
I write to you in between classes so brevity must be the soul of wit. What brings India and Israel together? According to last night’s discussion lecture “India, America, Israel: Emerging Relations,” it’s the terrorists…and the post-lecture free kosher Indian buffet…but…but mainly the terrorists.
United Nations Development Program specialist Ms. Mandakini Sud began the series by emphasizing the importance of connections amongst common men and the necessity of philanthropy. Her message of good will deteriorated, however, when she later suggested that the Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence has become obsolete in an age of terror when the enemy utilizes fear and violence without any desire for dialogue. I guess the Mahatma had it easy with British colonial armies.
Former Indian Army major and current SIPA student Probal DasGupta was the most blunt of the speakers when discussing the nature of the Indo-Israeli relations. He celebrated the military assistance Israel has presented to India, whether it be counter-insurgency training, intelligence, or Galil sniper rifles. While it seemed easy to get lost in his long list of arms transactions, he concluded his speech with a series of poignant yet disturbingly false analogies comparing Israel’s conflicts with Palestine, the Arab states, and Iran with India’s own clashes with Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia. His suggested justification for a close military partnership between the two countries wasn’t lost on the audience as a close friend wondered aloud afterwards whether he was actually missing MSA’s sponsored event on Islamophobia.
Later, American Jewish Committee’s Director of Special Projects Ms. Rebecca Neuwirth’s discussion of the “cultural commonalities” of Indian and Jewish Americans presented equally dubious ties between the two countries’ domestic situations. Drawing upon “positive” stereotypes, Ms. Neuwirth pointed to the two communities’ shared “reverence” for education, hardwork, creativity, and family values as an impetus for collaboration. Regardless of her subscription to the pernicious model minority myth, Ms. Neuwirth failed to explain how the status and interrelationships of diaspora communities serve as sound foundations for the the foreign or domestic policies of their respective “mother countries.”
Finally, the keynote speaker, Ambassador Raminder Singh Jassal, did not explicitly discuss the two countries’ military relationship to the extent DasGupta had; the message was implicit, however, in the structure of his speech. At several points during his presention, he returned to the question of what factors had led to the formal declaration of good Indo-Israeli relations in 1992. However, after mentions of recent scientific collaboration and some amusing anecdotes, the audience was left with only three possible factors for the alliance: the countries’ historical similarities, democratic governments, and shared “contemporary challenges.” Since the legacy of European exploitation, leftist nationalist pioneers, and early Marxist tendencies form the skeleton of most post-colonial states, the historical similarities the ambassador mentioned are anything but unique.
If you haven’t noticed already, the roundtable discussion strayed from the intended topic of India-Israel bilateral relations and ultimately focused more on the om than the shalom. In any case, having spent the past hour listening to false justifications for collaboration, I left Jerome Greene Hall that night feeling as if I had lost my own sense of of peace.