In “Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel,” journalist Azad Essa presents an insightful and extensively researched analysis that delves into the intricate relationship between these two nations. Through compelling storytelling and rigorous investigation, Essa challenges conventional wisdom, prompting readers to critically examine the historical and contemporary dynamics of the India-Israel alliance.
From the outset, Essa captures readers’ attention with a vivid account of the 1962 border conflicts between China and India over the disputed Aksai Chin region. This lesser-known incident serves as a turning point in the India-Israel relationship, as India sought assistance from Israel, reshaping their perceptions of each other. Through meticulous research and gripping narrative, Essa unveils the complex motivations and underlying factors that influenced their engagement during this crucial period.
As the narrative unfolds, Essa adeptly navigates the intertwined military and commercial interests that have drawn India and Israel closer over time. Notably, he explores Indian businessman Gautam Adani’s acquisition of the Israeli port of Haifa, a significant milestone in their bilateral relationship. Essa’s perceptive analysis highlights the growing strategic parallels and shared interests between the two nations, shedding light on the factors that have fostered their alliance.
A somber undertone emerges as Essa examines the shared techniques of ‘oppression’ employed by Israel and India. Drawing parallels between the ‘settler-colonial’ operations in Palestine and Kashmir, he talks about the harsh realities of extrajudicial executions, monitoring, and arbitrary detentions. Through his persuasive analysis, Essa compels readers to confront the consequences of such collaborations and reflect on their impact on marginalised communities.
One of the book’s most captivating sections explores the depths of Indian American identity and its interaction with Zionism and Hindu nationalism. Essa meticulously traces the history of Hindu nationalists who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s and their subsequent efforts to advance the Hindu nationalist movement. By elucidating how support for Zionists and the emulation of Zionist lobbying techniques influenced perceptions of India’s interests, both domestically and internationally, Essa provokes deeper reflection on the complex layers of the India-Israel relationship.
Essa’s writing style is engaging, and his arguments are substantiated by thorough research. He skillfully navigates the intricacies of historical events and contemporary trends, compelling readers to reevaluate conventional wisdom and consider the broader implications of such alliances. While the book presents a particular viewpoint, Essa acknowledges the complexities and contradictions within the India-Israel alliance.
He recognizes India’s historical support for the Palestinian cause and its anti-colonial stance during the movement for Indian independence, while also shedding light on India’s covert interest in collaboration with Israel driven by concerns over potential Arab support for Pakistan in the Kashmir conflict. By acknowledging these nuances, Essa avoids oversimplification and encourages readers to engage critically with the subject matter.
“Hostile Homelands” is an essential read for those interested in global politics, colonialism, and the dynamics of power. Essa’s work serves as a timely reminder to scrutinize alliances, uncover hidden objectives, and consider the human cost of geopolitical relationships. With its readable writing style, rigorous research, and nuanced analysis, this book offers a valuable resource for readers seeking a deeper understanding of the complex connection between these two countries.
The book though has also faced criticism and allegations of oversimplification. In a review published by historian Sumit Ganguly in the Foreign Policy journal, Ganguly argues that the book is a flawed polemic, filled with insinuations and innuendos. Ganguly specifically points out Essa’s supposed failure to adequately address the issue of “Pakistani-sponsored terrorism” in Kashmir. However, Ganguly’s critique is unfounded, as Essa’s book does not fit the definition of a polemic or a sly account. Rather, it presents a straightforward diplomatic history without claiming neutrality.
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