As we speak, the West Bengal legislative elections are ongoing. According to the Indian Express, “The ongoing assembly elections in West Bengal acquire significance not only because they may define the state and the country’s future, but the limits of the BJP and its Hindutva juggernaut could also be tested.”
The BJP is the ruling party in India, headed by Narendra Modi, a close friend of the State of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In light of this, Israelis and Jewish Canadians should watch very closely what happens in these elections, as they may determine the future of India. If the BJP can win in West Bengal, they will be even stronger than they were before and this could benefit Israel, as they are a pro-Israel party. However, if they lose, Indian-Israeli relations likely could remain as they are today and this could potentially limit the potential for growth.
“Ironically, Muslims, constituting 27 per cent of the state’s population, could have a big role in deciding this fate,” the Indian Express noted. “Muslim votes matter in 125 assembly constituencies where they are more than 20 per cent and in not less than 59 constituencies where they constitute more than 40 per cent.”
Shipan Kumer Basu, who heads the World Hindu Struggle Committee, stressed that Hindus could have been more influential in this election in assisting the BJP, but that opportunity was lost: “After 1947 and 1971, after being persecuted by the fundamentalists and tortured in various ways, many Hindus from Bangladesh took refuge in different states of India. More than half of them are living in West Bengal. The BJP promised to grant citizenship to refugees from Bangladesh. But they made a law in 2003 that all those who came to India from Bangladesh after 1971 are illegal.”
“Even today that law has not been amended,” he added. “Meanwhile, the Citizen Amendment Act passed in 2019 states that only those who came to India before December 31, 2014 will get Indian citizenship. Surprisingly, two years after the passage of the Citizens Amendment Act-2019, the BJP government has so far failed to grant citizenship to anyone under the act. As a result, there is no reason to think that the votes of Hindus from Bangladesh will go only to the BJP. All Hindus from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan should be granted Indian citizenship.”
Nevertheless, even if the BJP were to lose these elections, Indian-Israeli relations are likely to remain strong.
“We’ve had diplomatic relations for almost 30 years. Next year in 2022, we will celebrate our 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations,” Rony Yedeida-Klein, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy, told the Guardian Live about Indian-Israeli relations. “Over these years, we have seen these relations grow and become more visible and more important. I think that we can say that the visibility of these relations has really become great; we seek cooperation in the fields of agriculture and water, and innovation and health.”
“Just this past year, we’ve been putting a lot to work, working together on fighting Covid-19,” she added. “We’ve signed an MoU between the two countries in order to help grow the cooperation in the field of health, but also in other aspects as well as innovation and water. We’re working together with the government of UP on a big water project in the Bundelkhand region. Our centers of excellence in agriculture around the country are bringing new technologies to Indian farmers. So there’s really quite a lot that we’ve been cooperating on and I’m very happy to be a part of them.”