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India Must Look At Israel’s Point-Of-View

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Each time New Delhi’s relationship with West Asia is mentioned, there is a plaintive voice that argues India has long-standing and deep civilisational ties with countries such as Iran and with the Arab world. The relationship with Israel is described in more cynical terms, as pragmatic and transactional. The more conspiratorial among our public intellectuals link the growing engagement with Israel to the rise of allegedly right-wing tendencies in India’s polity.

This snapshot, while admittedly limited in its assessment, explains why Israel gets such a hostile reception among India’s self-appointed intelligentsia and most sections of its media. Criticism of the government’s alleged “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause – the word was used so often this past week – is couched in abstract references to history and shared cultures.
The Israel relationship is dismissed an inorganic.

How true is this? What exactly is a “civilisational relationship”? How recent or far back in history does it have to go to be certified as “legitimate” by self-appointed moral referees?

Yes, the Mahatma was sympathetic to the Palestinian/Arab claim on Jerusalem.

Nevertheless he was equally (if even more) sympathetic to Jews, even though his knowledge of the Holocaust was incomplete and his suggestions on how to deal with Hitler somewhat impractical.

Yes, India and Iran have met as friends as partners over the centuries, in the Mughal era, and well before that, in pre-Islamic Zoroastrian Iran. So much of our food and language has Persian touches to it. Yes, India and Iraq – or the Indus Valley and Sumer – constitute possibly the oldest international bilateral trade arrangement. Yes, thousands of years later, the mighty Cholas sent traders and ambassadors to the Abbasids, who ran one of Islam’s most illustrious empires from Baghdad.

All of this is true, but does it imply Hindus and Jews – Indians and Israelites – have no comparable history? To pick a random example, the account of the Roman historian Josephus would suggest otherwise. On the 15th of Xanthicus (roughly, April), AD 74, Josephus writes, Eleazer ben Yair, leader of a Jewish community besieged by invading Romans in their rock fortress of Masada, rose to address his people. He had a simple message: There would be no surrender. They would all have to die, kill each other, with the last man killing himself.

Eleazer’s listeners demurred. Sensing their fear, the charismatic leader rose again, to deliver a final exhortation. It was an evocation of the Hindu rite of passage, of seeing death in the flesh as just another milestone on the soul’s immortal journey. “Are we not,” Eleazer asked, “ashamed to have lower notions than the Indians? And by our own cowardice?” Later that day, 960 Jews killed themselves, the Romans captured a ghost town and Masada became a reference point for courage and resolve for all times to come.

It is humbling that perhaps the most iconic event in Israeli history was at least partly inspired by India. This proves nothing in the cold practice of diplomacy, but does negate that silly argument that Indian foreign policy should swerve towards those with whom there has been a civilisational relationship. In reality, depending on which time frame you choose, there has been an Indian civilisational relationship with virtually every major society in West Asia, including the Jews of Israel.

Moving to more immediate concerns, how should India see current hostilities in Gaza? There are two aspects to ponder here. First, it is true that support for the Palestinian cause has declined in India since say the 1970s. Actually this is a worldwide phenomenon, made worse by the fact that the Palestinian leadership – or competing Palestinian leaderships – have not been able to take charge of any government or authority they have been given. Indeed, there is a degree of exasperation with Palestinian politics.

Once the Palestinian cause was a mainstream protest issue. Today, in the West, it has become confined to Muslim groups, supported by an anti-capitalist – and in some cases anti-Semitic – New Left. It is following a distressingly similar pattern in India. If you ignore the Hamas-Hezbollah fellow travellers in the media and opinion circles, there is a vast civil society backing for Israel that is unfortunately under-reported.

Second, in the narrow strip of Gaza, those who are taking on Israel – and those who triggered the ongoing violence by firing rockets, entirely unprovoked, into civilian territory – are not Palestinian peaceniks. They represent Hamas, a militant group that was given the opportunity to moderate when it was elected to office in the Palestinian Authority but blew the chance.

Hamas was born as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It is a wonder India was worried when the Brotherhood helped overthrow the Hosni Mubarak government in Cairo and came to power through a frontal organisation. It is a wonder India – or Indians – did not protest when the Egyptian army effected a coup against the Brotherhood government and went on an execution spree. When it comes to Israel and Hamas, entirely different standards are followed.

It needs to be understood that Hamas is little different from the Islamic State (IS) movement that now occupies pockets of central-northern Iraq. It shares the same Sunni supremacism. It is known to locate its combat bases in civilian areas – to give itself cover – and use women and children as human shields. This makes regrettable loss of civilian lives inevitable in any battle against Hamas.

Yet, the Ministry of External Affairs, in its initial response, urged talks between Israel and Hamas. How would New Delhi have liked it if on the morning after 26/11, an external government had advised negotiations between the government of India and Jamat ul Dawa? Sometimes, just sometimes, see it from Israel’s point of view.

(Ashok Malik is a columnist and writer living in Delhi)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndoCanadians is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of IndoCanadians and IndoCanadians does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Canadian News

Joint statement from the Greater Toronto Area & Hamilton Mayors and Chairs

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory take part in a candlelit vigil to honour the victims of a deadly shooting in Toronto on Wednesday July 25, 2018. Ten-year-old Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont., and 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto were killed in Sunday's shooting attack, and 13 other people were injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

We are united in fighting COVID-19 – protecting our residents and saving lives.

While the measures we have taken to stop the spread of the virus have made a difference, this virus has still taken far too many lives in our communities and continues to threaten the lives of our residents.

At the same time, there is no denying the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Jobs have been lost, many businesses have closed or are at risk of closure, and many families are worried about their financial future.

We’ve been hit hard but that’s why it is so important that we keep moving forward and come back as strong as possible.

Today, the GTHA Mayors and Chairs met to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the region and how our municipalities can work together on the economic restart and recovery.

We know the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area alone is projected to lose 355,000 jobs and 28% of GDP along with $894 million in lost wages and $3.7 billion in revenue losses for businesses. This will be felt right across the GTHA but it also threatens the provincial and national economies.

A strong recovery right here in the GTHA is crucial to healing the economic damage done by COVID-19 and helping the families and businesses all governments have been working to protect throughout this emergency.

Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy need the GTHA to come back stronger than ever when the restart begins.

We are determined to deliver this recovery and we agreed today that the GTHA municipalities will be working together to successfully and smoothly reopen our vital regional economy when the time comes.

We also discussed how we can in a consistent way achieve significant, necessary financial support from the other governments to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect our ability to contribute to the recovery. A strong recovery needs strong cities and regional governments.

We have agreed we will work together to share information about our respective financial positions and explore together measures we can advocate to the other governments which will help to ensure the financial stability of local and regional governments in the GTHA.

Our child care and recreation programs help parents get back to work.

Our emergency services keep people safe.

Our transit systems get people to work and home safely.

Our major infrastructure projects – often built in conjunction with the other governments – will help kick-start the recovery and create countless jobs.

Our economic development activities attract jobs and investment.

We built a strong and vibrant GTHA and we know that we will need to come back even stronger and as quickly as we can in order to keep Canada’s economy going.

With the cooperation and support of the provincial and federal governments, we are ready to rise to this challenge.”

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Canadian News

Four People Charged in Mississauga Pedestrian Fail to Remain Fatality

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Investigators from the Major Collision Bureau have charged four people in Mississauga’s most recent fatal fail to remain collision.

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at approximately 8:40 p.m., the victim, a 61 year-old female from Mississauga, was struck by a south bound vehicle as she was crossing Mavis Road in the area of Knotty Pine Grove in the City of Mississauga. The vehicle did not remain and the victim, having suffered major injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Saturday, February 17, 2018 shortly before 7:00 p.m., Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM, a 60 year-old male from Brampton, and the driver believed to be responsible in this incident, surrendered to police at 22 Division. Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM has since been charged with Fail to Remain Cause Death.

Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, a 25 year old female from Brampton, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN a 28 year-old female from Brampton and Gowtham SATKUNARAJAH a 28 year-old male from Brampton have each been charged with Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident.

Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM will answer to his charge on March 12, 2018. Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN andGowtham SATKUNARAJAH will answer to their charges on Monday March 26, 2018 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton

Anyone who may have witnessed the collision, have dashboard video footage of the incident or who may have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact investigators with the Major Collision Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3710. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.

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Canadian News

Justin Trudeau in India: Hug missing! Mounting pressure?

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The much publicized and anticipated visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India was marred with questions. The questions were centered on the kind of welcome he would be given in the Sikh dominated state of Punjab. Also the famous hug by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being anticipated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally made his much-touted visit to India. He landed on the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi only to be received by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat not even a Cabinet Minister in Narendra Modi’s government.

He is presently the second rank Minister of State for Agriculture.  That comes in complete contrast to the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government has generally displayed towards the visiting dignitaries.  Only a couple of weeks ago, when the heads of the 10 ASEAN states arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t receive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the airport, as he has previously done with many leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t join him is all surprising even when Prime Minister Trudeau visited Gujarat. This is unusual because the Indian Prime Minister has set a trend that he always accompanies head of the state when they visit his home state.

Even Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath did not show up, let alone accompany Prime Minister Trudeau to the Taj. However, during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 15 January visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Yogi Adityanath had received Netanyahu and his wife and shown them around as well as hosted a lunch for them. For first three days, none from the executive or the elected representative held any meeting with the delegation.

Media in India is trying to spread a message that the cold treatment given by Prime Minister could be because two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi – support the Khalistan movement. However, had that been the case his visit to Punjab would have got a similar response.  However, the Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh rolled out a red carpet during his stay at Amritsar and even the two leaders held some fruitful discussions.

Thus putting an end to those criticisms that that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit was devoid of any warmth.  Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh, for instance who met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau setting aside his earlier prejudice that he exhibited during the visit of Defence Minister Harjeet Singh Sajjan.

In recent months, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Canada, the United States and Australia have banned Indian officials from visiting gurudwaras and the moment started with Gurudwaras here in Toronto. Could that be the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not accord one of the warmest welcomes that he is known to provide?  Or the use by Canada’s parliament of the term genocide to describe mass killings of Sikhs in India in 1984 has left the Indian Prime Minister disturbed?  However, more than Prime Minister Modi, this could have left the Congress party in troubled waters, but that was also not the case as Amarinder Singh hails from the same party.

The lukewarm welcome to Prime Minister Trudeau can have its political ramifications too. Will it hamper the significant 2015 deal, in which Canada agreed to supply 3,000 metric tons of Uranium to power India’s atomic reactors?

Somewhere Prime Minister Modi has not taken the issue of non allowing entry of Indian officials to Gurudwaras and the statement on Genocide too lightly. Prime Minister Modi however has failed to understand that Canada cannot curtail the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizen.

Two nations perhaps failed to resolve the matter before Prime Minister boarded the flight from Canada and not welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau could be a tactical decision to put pressure on him. With Prime Minister Modi preferring to meet him at the far end of the tour has conveyed a lot about the myopic approach of Prime Minister Modi.

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