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Israel, India move closer with easing of visa restrictions

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) hold a joint press conference following their meeting in Jerusalem on 5 July 2017 [Haim Zach/GPO / Handout /Anadolu Agency]
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) hold a joint press conference following their meeting in Jerusalem on 5 July 2017 [Haim Zach/GPO / Handout /Anadolu Agency]

Relations between Israel and India under two anti-Muslim right-wing prime ministers are set to improve with the easing of visa procedures for Indians by Netanyahu's government.

Sources in Mumbai reported that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to encourage more Indians to visit Israel by simplifying its visa application procedures for visitors from the sub-continent.

The relaxed visa rule, according to the Hindu Business Line involves less documentation for Indians who have availed of visas of Schengen countries, the US, Canada or Australia and have completed their travel to these countries, a statement from the Israeli consulate said today.

Israeli Tourism Ministry India Director Hassan Madah said: "This is an initiative we have been working very closely with interior ministry and foreign ministry to introduce in India and I am happy to see this change for the Indian travellers who wish to travel to Israel."

He said, easing the visa requirements will not only make the application process faster, it will also increase the number of tourists to Israel as well.

The announcement over visa restrictions comes on the back of criticism of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi for its vague response to President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Read: India takes part in first ever military drill with Israel

India had traditionally supported the Palestinian cause. Previous Indian prime ministers, including the country's founder and revered leader Mahatma Gandhi, had opposed the Zionist state believing it to be a colonial enterprise. The leader of the Indian independence movement against the British was strongly opposed to the idea of a Jewish national home in Palestine.

Under Modi, India has made a radical shift and aroused right-wing Hindu nationalists who are known for their anti-Muslim hatred. The bond between the prime ministers of the two countries is described by critics as a political marriage between two men who harbour virulent nationalism tinged with racism and bigotry.

The Modi government's tepid response to Trump's announcement was described by Nivedita Menon, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, as a sign that the leader of the BJP had reversed India's stance on Palestine.

"It is not surprising that India will now not say anything against Israel as there is a very close bond being built between the two," Menon told Al Jazeera.

The current Indian government's closeness to Israel is also owing to the very clear Islamophobia of both the regimes. That's very obvious. It's a coming together of Islamophobic regimes.

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