The Modi government’s move of obliterating Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5th has exposed the extremist religious nationalism espoused by the BJP. Yet, it is a good time to understand BJP’s boldness regarding the matter of Kashmir, in the context of the support it is getting from close allies like the US and Israel.
In January last year, Netanyahu visited India and made several deals including those in areas of defence, security and counterterrorism. India is already the largest purchaser of weapons from Israel, recorded to be about $600 million in 2016. But the interesting thing was the counterterrorism including intelligence-sharing, counterterrorist training and joint exercises between two occupier states that use the so-called Counter Terror techniques to terrorise and control the people they forcefully occupy.
Even though the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, has had ties with Mossad since its inception in 1968, their mutual activities were always hidden because Indian authorities never wanted to provoke the displeasure of their Muslim population. But this has changed with the BJP government, wherein we have seen Modi and Netanyahu hugging each other and reports of Indian commandoes being trained on Israeli soil.
Both leaders — whom Mani Shankar Aiyar described as “made for each other” as they both rely on “a narrow, sectarian nationalism whose driving force is the demonisation of ‘The Other’” – are also one in expressing that both their peoples suffer the “scourge” of terrorism alike.
At Modi’s visit to Israel in 2018, Mark Sofer of the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, “We are both suffering from the same scourge. I really don’t see any difference between the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Hamas”— the Lashkar being the organisation responsible for terror activities in India-occupied Kashmir, according to consistent allegations by India. Moreover, immediately after the Pulwama attack, Netanyahu expressed his solidarity with Modi by asserting that “the Jewish nation stood behind India”. The Israeli envoy, Dr Ron Malka, then stated that “there is no limit” to the Israeli assistance to India, so “we share our technique because we really want to help our really important friend”.
Such immediate concerns in India’s matters point to an unusually deep friendship. We know that Israel has provided military assistance to India in its 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars, but do we know that Israel has a direct role to play in Kashmir too? It seems that it does, and India has been rather blunt about this in Modi’s last tenure.
On 31st October 2017, Israel’s Chief of the Ground Forces Major General Yakov (Kobi) Barak visited the Indian Army’s Northern Command headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Israeli delegation was briefed about “Pakistan’s proxy war in J&K” and “the consistent efforts made by Pakistani troops to infiltrate militants into Jammu and Kashmir from LoC and IB in the State” as if Israel was to counter them for India. In November the same year, an Indo-Israeli Friendship Society delegation visited Kashmir. The Kashmir Observer reported the story, saying that the purpose of the visit was “to build goodwill for the Jewish state among Kashmiri Muslims and to remove what it called misconceptions created by years of hostile propaganda”. Suffice to say, the story did not get much audience in the people.
So when India attacked Balakot inside Pakistan after the Pulwama incident this February, there was much rouse about the Israeli-made Rafael Spice-2000 “smart bombs” used in the Indian jets’ strikes, and even speculations that one of the two jets downed by Pakistan Air Force was piloted by an Israeli. However, not much was said about Israel’s day-to-day collaboration with the Indian military and civilian outfits in countering what they both call “terrorists”.
This collaboration is obvious in the February 2014 India-Israel agreements on “Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Cooperation in Homeland and Public Security, and Protection of Classified Material”. Under the Cooperation in Homeland Security, four working groups in the areas of border management, internal security and public safety, police modernisation and capacity building for combating crime, crime prevention and cybercrime were established. This means that Israel is now working hand in hand with India on internal security, which they both feel is threatened the most in Kashmir. In this context, the visit of the Indo-Israeli Friendship Society delegation to Kashmir and their closed-door meetings with Kashmiris representing the moderate sections in Kashmiri society meant that the Israelis were looking for pockets whereby they would be able to create a physical presence in the Occupied Valley.
Another way to look at the matter is the rise in anti-India activities in IOK, especially since Modi came into power in 2014. Understandably, the Indian media links the present rise of insurgent activities with Pakistan’s renewed support for the freedom-seeker across the border, and Burhan Wani’s ambush and martyrdom in 2016 is taken as a symbolic turning point in the resurgence.
But in retrospect, one can reckon that with Modi being hand in glove with the Israeli defence mechanism which evolved over the apartheid of the Palestinians, the clutches of tyrannical control were being tightened around the Kashmiris with increased surveillances, ambushes and targeted killings and the continuing tortures in custody and even disappearance from custody. Add to them the humiliation of peaceful civilian residents with house searches in the middle of the night which are typical for psychological operations (PSYOP) applied regularly by the IDF in the West Bank. These were perhaps the real causes that forced the Kashmiri youth into finding a means to retaliate, or at least react.
The intensification of all such oppressive measures in Modi’s regime perhaps were the factors that led to the peak of riots in 2016. With the number of rioting incidents going up to 2,897, an average of 8 riots took place every day that year. This amount of agitation cannot be blamed on external factors and can only be fueled by genuine dissent.
One can safely assume that as information regarding abuse and torture of the Kashmiris is always rendered oblique owing to Indian censorship, the information and invigilation on each Kashmiri individual, especially over the youth, is being made comprehensive and target-ready with the increasing interoperability, information-sharing and joint counterterrorism between India and its hug-buddy Israel. And the constant lockdown and quarantine of Kashmir since August 5 seems to be another Israeli expertise being tried on Kashmir.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2019.