Ariel Sharon's visit to India: Learning the right lessons

Ariel Sharon's visit to India, quite expectedly, created a lot of noise. The right-wingers in India see Sharon and Israel as heroes, and would like nothing more than emulate them. Tough leader, tough country. Surrounded by enemies, who happen to be Muslims. Constant victim of terror and suicide bombers. As Islamic terror strikes in India more often, it is natural to look at a country that has been standing up to similar aggression.

Sure, there are lessons to learn from Israel and Sharon. The tricky thing is pick the right lessons and the wrong ones.

For all Israel's heroism, perhaps we should ask ourselves a question. At a time when the RSS,  BJP and the Indian government believe that  Israel can be a model for India and there is potential for an Indo-American-Israeli axis, would we like to be South East Asia's Israel tomorrow?

The answer can only be  No. No, we would not like to be surrounded by hostile nations and inflicted daily terror on. For all our enemies and terrorist groups and Jammu Kashmir militants and Islamic terror, India is nowhere near the state that Israel and Sharon find themselves in. And it is incumbent on us to learn how to never reach the constant state of war Israel is in.

We can definitely learn from Israel's military technology, entrepreneurial spirit and strong will. We should definitely learn from Israel's anti-terror technology and infrastructure. There are, on the other hand, lessons to learn from Israel's pathetic handling of its anti-terror strategy and how a nation based on a shared culture and religion can make the mistake of responding to terror with terror and end up in a sea of blood.

The Palestinians are no angels. There are innocents being killed in both Palestine and Israel. But an eye-for-an-eye has not taken Israel anywhere in its battle against Hamas and Islamic terror.

Lesson 1. Lean from Israel's military power, technology and efficiency.

I don't think anyone, even die-hard lefties will have a problem with that. The RSS and BJP would love it too.

The country is a software power, and has been extremely innovative in technology. The legendary entrepreneurial skills of Jews have helped them a lot, and Israel's financial condition is a lot better and it is a surviving democracy in a theatre full of dictators and monarchies. They have beaten back all attacks by Arab countries on them, and they have become brilliant at manipulating the US into supporting them with a nudge and a wink.

Lesson 2. Learn from the horrific mistakes in Israel's anti-terror strategy.

Quite mistakenly, Sharon and Israel believe that it is possible to beat terror with counter-terror - exactly what the BJP, RSS, Advani and sundry others have been proposing as a solution for all India's ills. Israel's has driven itself into a blind alley for all its military power and precision strikes on terrorist leaders. You need a political strategy when dealing with terrorists, and Israel's current history, popular opinion and extreme nationalistic fervor conspire to confine Israel to the same blind alley. Israel does not have a political solution to offer the Palestinians right now, neither does it have a consensus on how much can be negotiated away- this one, a particular legacy of Sharon. He has charge dup the country, and in the process, has deprived himself of any space for manoeuvre - a mistake the BJP, Shiv Sena and RSS are bound to make.

Lesson 3. Learn the complications faced by a country when you have second-class citizens

Israel is a democracy, and this makes advocates of better Indo-Israeli relations feel good. Israel's democracy is probably the only one without a constitution! Why this is so, I am unaware of. The impact on this on Israel's civil society has been bad. The legal system in the absence of a constitution is conveniently manipulated by popular opinion, religion the unspoken predominance of Jews over Israeli Arabs. Inter-denominational marriage is prohibited, the orthodox Rabbis still have great power and Arabs within Israel are simmering against injustices. India needs to look at that very carefully and draw some lessons.

Lesson 4. Learn the limitations of force.

Suicide bombings cannot be stopped by tanks. Unless backed up by a political strategy, force may win only when you are wiling to butcher the entire populace. Israel cannot imprison Palestinians, nor can it butcher them and get rid of the problem. Let's be cold-blooded here. Let's say for the sake of argument that all Palestinians are evil and all Israelis, Sharon included, are paragons of virtue and godliness. Even in that case, it is a practical impossibility for Israel to wipe out Palestinians without risking all-out war and international intervention. Tanks and missile strikes on a pissed-off populace will only provoke more attacks.

With terror, dear Uncles Vajpayee and Sharon, you need to offer carrots. Lots of them. Keep a large stick handy. The entire story of Israel can teach us many lessons. Hope our society and institutions will not leave it to another generation to sort out the mess the Indian Sharons are creating here.




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