Amid talks about boosting India-Israel ties as the visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enters into the fifth day of his trip to India in Mumbai, a section of analysts suggest the tie-up would help Israel boost its relations with Bangladesh and Japan.
“…with the assistance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, perhaps Israel will be able to witness a flourishing of Japanese-Israeli relations. Given the great rapport between Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, Israel’s positive relationship with India can be a game changer for Japanese-Israeli relations as well,” says Rachel Avraham of Israel’s Centre for Near East Policy Research and author of the book Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israel and Arab Media.
The observation is relevant to the context that since 2015, Israel has witnessed “improved diplomatic relations” with Japan, especially in the aftermath of the decline in oil prices but Tel-Aviv has not quite succeeded to tap into the world’s third largest economy to the level that it potentially could.
The ‘Japan narrative’ in Israel’s global polity is vital as Japan had, like India, voted in favour of a United Nations resolution that condemned the US move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
However, a few days later, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono offered to host an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit during his visit to the region.
The Japanese Foreign Minister had also met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Furthermore, Avraham points out that throughout the Indian subcontinent, the cultural influence of India is immense.
“Bollywood films are very popular and any country in Asia with a significant Hindu population is influenced by Indian culture. These factors, alongside the sheer size of India, make the country a force to be reckoned with who has a fighting chance of competing with China as a superpower,” she said.
By strengthening its ties with India, Israel also potentially opens up the door to even establish relations with nations that presently do not enjoy diplomatic relations with Israel, such as Bangladesh, whose annual trade with India is worth billions of dollars, Avaraham wrote in The Jerusalem Post.
She also says while Israel was the first country from the Middle East and the 4th in the world to recognise Bangladesh as an independent country, Israel-Bangladesh relations have not brightened.
“Although the Sheikh Hasina government is presently very hostile to Israel, the Hindu Struggle Committee emphasised that the Hindu minority in Bangladesh and even many Muslims within the country would like to see this hostility come to an end,” she writes.
Analysing that in more ways than one, Netanyahu’s visit to India could be a ‘game changer’, she says, “Israel also has modern technology, agriculture, etc. that is of pivotal importance to a poor country like Bangladesh.”
With the assistance of Prime Minister Modi, writes Avraham, “whose government presently has enormous influence within Bangladesh and enjoys excellent relations with Dhaka, perhaps one day the will of the Bangladeshi people will override the present position of the ruling Bangladeshi government. Thus, Netanyahu’s historic visit to India is a game changer which can enable Israel to strengthen its position both in Asia and globally,” she notes.