The Israel model, and Indian realities | Political Line

Many in India view Israel as a model for its own security and progress. They have a lot to ponder.

Updated - October 17, 2023 10:30 am IST

Published - October 15, 2023 02:32 pm IST

(This is the latest edition of the Political Line newsletter curated by Varghese K. George. The Political Line newsletter is India’s political landscape explained every week. You can subscribe here to get the newsletter in your inbox.)

The blood-curdling violence unleashed by Hamas on civilians in Israel and the savage collective punishment that Israel is inflicting upon Palestinians in Gaza hold pointers for all nations and peoples. Countries that are home to multiple ethnic and religious groups have an increasing challenge of managing conflicting views, aspirations, and even behaviours. These challenges have been bubbling up, and even erupting as clashes and governance crises in many democratic societies in recent years. Europe and the U.S. are facing a challenge in protecting their borders, as thousands of people stream in, which will further change the character of these societies. India, a country of vast social, ethnic, and religious diversities, also faces the challenge of maintaining unity, peace, and harmony.

A widely-held view in India that the ruling BJP promotes is that national resolve and unity originate from a strong state. Concessions to social groups and accommodation of diversity can weaken the nation, according to this world view. Since India has had its share of secessionist movements, and violent insurrections, the view that it was all caused because of a ‘soft state’ gained currency. Israel became a model for many Indian strategists, and the cooperation between both countries grew in leaps and bounds in recent decades. The strength of the Israeli military and its technological superiority, which is ensured by the U.S., did not shield its unfortunate citizens, who fell victims to Hamas’s violence.

The barrier between external and internal threats to a country has been broken with the proliferation of non-state actors and terrorism. This premise has also justified the massive crackdown on popular resistance movements and even political opponents. National security has become an alibi for branding dissenting political opinions as dangerous to the nation. The Indian Supreme Court has pushed back the government’s attempt to even restrict judicial scrutiny of its actions taken in the name of national security. There are laws that take away liberty for long periods, rendering the judiciary irrelevant if the executive state decides so. In Israel, the judiciary had its wing clipped as the executive vested itself with powers that cannot be reviewed by the judiciary. In the U.S., a McCarthyist crowd of commentators and politicians fed on state narrative is constantly looking for foreign agents in the homeland.

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Israel has the most fortified borders in the world. Under its current Prime Minister, Israel has buried the two-state solution to its conflict with Palestine. The citizenship status of Palestinians remains an inhuman mystery and a misery. As it turned out, fortified borders did not protect Israel.

Strong state, fortified borders, unchecked powers with the military and the executive — all this proved inadequate. American strategists often call for ‘peace through strength’, a slogan in justification of constant expansion of the military. The U.S. has been fortunate that it remained insulated from external violence with the exception of 9/11. But whether it has achieved peace — in its relations with the world or societally — through strength is a highly debatable question.

India has a lot to ponder. And avoid the wrong lessons from the numerous challenges and conflicts around the world.

Federalism Tract: Notes on Indian Diversity

Temples: who controls, who should?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while campaigning in Telangana, said in south India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, temples have been captured by the State government. He said temples under the control of the government have been looted. He questioned why the government was not touching places of worship belonging to the minorities. You could watch this video to understand the decades-old debate on who should be in control of temples. 

Caste counts

On October 2, the Bihar government released the data of its caste survey. It showed that the Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes together account for about 84% of the State’s population. This has reopened the debate on whether the 50% legal ceiling on caste-based reservation should be removed. You could read or listen to a discussion on this question.

Engineering failure

It was with much fanfare that the previous BJP government in Karnataka had opened up the option of Kannada medium in engineering courses — Civil and Mechanical — after introducing the National Education Policy, 2020 in higher education. But not a single student has opted for it so far.

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