Friday, April 6, 2007
India-Israel-US conference at Columbia University
I attended a conference about two months back that I never wrote about, but which in fact is an important first step in building bridges to the future. This conference was about Indian-American-Israeli relations, held at Columbia University. An article about the conference may be read here. I said I would write details about this conference, and here they are. Firstly I want to say that this conference was co-sponsored by many organizations, but I heard about it through AJC. I decided to attend because of my passion for both India and Israel. (well witnessed on this blog) The speakers were all well informed and interesting. Of particular note was Ambassador Raminder Singh Jassal, who served as the ambassador from India to Israel from 2001-2004 and has been the Indian ambassador to the United States since January 2005. The other speakers included an Indian-American Jew, an Indian who specializes in media relations, a high ranking officer in the Indian army, and a representative from AJC. Of all the speakers, I was struck with the following information in particular... The media rep said that the most important fact is that Israelis and Indians are building person to person bonds. She said that individual Indians and Israelis are connecting and seeing each other as people. I think this is key and the person to person bonds will be invaluable in the future. The army officer said that Israel and India do joint training sessions with each other. He said that the IDF has done practice drills in India, utilizing India's vast space as well as varied climate. He also said Indian and Israeli scientists have been working jointly on various military projects, including Israeli scientists who have repaired/rebuilt all the Soviet-era machinery of the Indian army. There is an intelligence link between the nations, and a commonality of a threat. The Indian-American Jew stressed that Jews in India have lived peacefully for generations, and now there are Israelis who travel to India - where you can even see menus in Hebrew! He noted in particular the absence in India, in contrast to most of the rest of the world, of a history of antisemitism. Finally, of note was the ambassador, who said that trade between India and Israel has skyrocketed in recent years, with tiny Israel being India's ninth largest trading partner. He said there is a common threat both nations face, and both nations are also democracies. The ambassador also praised the US for the nuclear deal reached last year, calling it historic. The ambassador only predicted the relationship between India and Israel (as well as the US) to get better. Afterwards, there were questions and answers, and the first question was from a total moonbat, who asked if there really was a common bond of democracy between India and Israel, since Israel is an apartheid state, not a democracy. This was shot down quickly, as I nearly puked in my mouth, listening to her. Another person asked how Muslims are treated in the Indian army - if they are seen as a weakness or a strength. The army guy said the Muslims in India are seen as a strength, and their Islamic status is a non-issue. My own question was, as usual, the most controversial of the night. I asked why sort of things are being done to confront Islamic terrorism within India, and to prevent people from wanting to be terrorists, and what should be done of Gandhi's failed legacy, as pacificism does not work in an age where Islamists wish to kill as many people as possible, and will not be deterred by pacifism. The answer I received was basically a non-answer. The answer centered on making people less poor, so they will not be lured into Islamofascism, and then saying Gandhi's words should not be taken literally today, but his spirit is still of consequence, saying David Ben Gurion had a portrait of Gandhi in his home. They basically said that if you show humanity, it will work. Afterwards, I enjoyed kosher vegetarian Indian cuisine, and I met the wife of the creator of Camera. I had an amazing talk with her, gave her my business card, and have been receiving emails from Camera ever since! Overall, it was a great conference, and I was very happy to be there and see it all firsthand. I hope there will be more conferences like them in the future, and I promise to report back as to the details about them in a more timely fashion.