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Ignore the jibes, Modi embracing Bibi is good for India

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21.02.2018
Not unexpectedly there are a few snide asides about the overt display of Netanyahu – Modi bonhomie – besides Rahul Gandhi’s “hugplomacy” jibe, which many did not quite appreciate. Some may even say it was a surfeit of public ‘bromance’ erring on the side of excess. Optics are paramount in diplomacy and this was, perhaps, necessary both for domestic and international consumption.

Talking first of the audience at home, for the vast majority of Indians, Israel was at best a hazy concept till recently. In contrast, Arafat with his chequered headgear (in more senses than one) had given a face to Palestine and from his hugs (yes, hugs) and kisses to receiving Indian leaders. He was made to appear a friend, unfairly bullied by America’s love child in the West Bank of river Jordan, who India was morally bound to side with.

At the risk of simplistic generalisation, Israel’s image in the mind of the common Indian was largely derived from Shakespearean stereotypes and Bible history classes in school. Very little was known about the giant strides Israel had made in science and technology. One had, of course, heard about its military prowess and the Israeli secret service Mossad. But, the defining image of Israel etched popular memory was of Operation Entebbe.

For years, Israel has been assiduously cultivating sections the Indian media. But, in the then prevailing political environment at home it was nearly taboo to write about Israel, like an extra marital liaison everyone knew about but were shy to talk of. The reciprocal visits of Modi to Israel and Netanyahu to India has finally taken the veil off the relationship. But, the Modi-Netanyahu tango in full........

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