[News] Arms over masks: India buys weapons from Israel as coronavirus cases spike

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 24 13:47:50 EDT 2020


https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/coronavirus-india-weapons-israel-covid-19-pandemic
Arms
over masks: India buys weapons from Israel as coronavirus cases spike
By Azad Essa - March 24, 2020
------------------------------

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handling of the coronavirus crisis
has been criticised by activists and rights groups after it emerged his
government decided to go ahead with an arms deal with Israel worth hundreds
of millions of dollars.

According to a statement released
<https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1607638> by the Indian
government, Israel will supply the Indian military with 16,479 Negev light
machine guns, despite growing concerns over the health emergency facing the
country of 1.3 billion people.

The deal, worth $116 million, came as doctors on the frontline in India
continue to complain
<https://www.asiavillenews.com/article/the-weekly-dose-indian-doctors-on-the-covid-19-front-line-in-their-own-words-35900>
of a shortage of masks
<https://twitter.com/Ms_Aflatoon/status/1242043795127984128> and protective
equipment
<https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Healthcare-workers-face-crisis-of-protective-gears/articleshow/74740534.cms>,
highlighting concerns that India is ill-prepared to deal with a crisis of
this magnitude.

According to authorities <https://www.mohfw.gov.in/>, there have
been around 469 known cases of Covid-19 in India with 10 fatalities.

'Why is the government of India choosing to spend massive amounts on
military purchases instead of prioritising a corona relief package, medical
infrastructure, free healthcare and testing for all?'

*- Kavita Krishnan, Communist Party of India*

But India, like several other countries, has conducted few tests
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-51922204> and is experiencing a
spike in infections.

On Monday, an Indian epidemiologist said
<https://scroll.in/article/956932/interview-suppression-wont-work-in-india-slow-down-the-coronavirus-this-will-be-a-long-haul>
that up to 55% of the country or some 715 million people could have the
virus, while a conservative estimate suggests
<https://theprint.in/opinion/current-rate-india-30000-covid-19-deaths-may-no-hospital-bed-june-data/385386/>India
could see around 30,000 deaths by May.

With concerns rising over the rapid acceleration of the pandemic and the
impact it has already had on economies around the world, the thought that
the struggling Indian economy could afford to absorb military spending at
this juncture has left some reeling.

Achin Vanaik, a retired professor of International Relations and Global
Politics at the University of Delhi, described the decision as
"extraordinary and highly condemnable, especially as it becomes clear that
authorities are well aware
<https://thewire.in/health/india-coronavirus-ramanan-laxminarayan>that
official stats are a gross underestimation at this point."

He told Middle East Eye that, "India needs every rupee to deal with the
very real danger of the coronavirus pandemic spreading in a country of
1.3 billion people - living in densely populated cities and towns. As it
is, compared to Europe, North America or even China and other countries in
Asia, the medical system here is woefully under equipped to deal with this
emergency. This diversion of funds is deeply distressing."
'On the course of demagoguery'

The weapons contract signed on Thursday was originally authorised by
the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in February 2018, and is part of a
series of weapon agreements between the two countries under prime ministers
Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi.

According to India's defence ministry, "the provisioning of this
operationally urgent and very critically needed weapon will boost the
confidence of the frontline troops and provide much needed combat power to
the Armed Forces."

But Apoorvanand <https://thewire.in/rights/rana-ayyub-tweet-coronavirus>, a
professor at the University of Delhi, the move to prioritise arms at a time
of a crisis was only part of a larger attempt by the BJP-led government to
turn India into a security state, like Israel.

"The so-called security of the state is all that matters. So it keeps on
invoking enemies, either outside or within. And it has turned people,
especially Hindus into paranoid masses," Apoorvanand told MEE.

'Modi is taking India on the course of demagoguery, and this is all it has
to offer the people'

*- Apoorvanand, University of Delhi *

"It is clear that the PM had nothing to offer as a government in tackling
this crisis. Our doctors don't have protective equipment in sufficient
quantity; we don't have capacity to do testing as advised by the experts.

"Instead, Modi is taking India on the course of demagoguery, and this is
all it has to offer the people."

Similarly, Kavita Krishnan, leader of the Communist Party of India, told
MEE that given the government had yet to announce any relief package for
those losing their livelihood as a result of the pandemic, choosing to
spend massive amounts on military purchases was unconscionable.

"People rendered suddenly jobless are forced to rush back to villages to
survive, risking the spread of the virus as they go.

"Why is the government of India choosing to spend massive amounts on
military purchases instead of prioritising a corona relief package, medical
infrastructure, free healthcare and testing for all right now?” Krishnan
asked.

India's Ministry of Defence did not respond to MEE's request for comment.
Communication blockade in Kashmir

The Indian government's efforts so far have been largely ridiculed as being
all spectacle and no substance. On Sunday, millions emerged on their
balconies and many others came out onto the streets to clap and bang pots
and pans in a show of solidarity with doctors, nurses and paramedic staff,
in what was seen by some as a grotesque PR exercise for the Modi government.

But the government has also moved to shut down
<https://scroll.in/latest/957034/todays-coronavirus-updates-nine-dead-21-states-tighten-lockdowns-as-cases-rise-to-468>some
80 districts across the country and suspend interstate train and bus
networks. Meanwhile, Delhi has said it would be increasing rations
<https://scroll.in/latest/956838/covid-19-delhi-bans-gatherings-of-more-than-five-persons-raises-ration-benefits-for-poor-by-50>for
the poor.

The Indian administration has also come under fire for the partial
communication blockade in Kashmir, which academics and activists argue will
have dire consequences for eight million people already living under a
military occupation.

<https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/india-says-palestinians-should-consider-trumps-middle-east-plan>

India says relations with Israel are 'very strong' as it presses
Palestinians to accept Trump's plan

Not only are hospitals understaffed and poorly-equipped but the
restrictions on the internet have left doctors reeling
<https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/die-cattle-kashmiris-fear-coronavirus-outbreak-200322151405218.html%C2%A0>
over their inability to download the latest guidelines or resources needed
for treatment.

In an open letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 170
South Asian academics and activists called
<https://medium.com/@media_41618/amid-covid-19-pandemic-over-170-academics-from-around-the-world-demand-india-restore-high-speed-d25d6b3edd0>on
the body to apply pressure on India to reinstate the internet at full
speeds and to release political prisoners.

“As we are already seeing in countries across Europe and America, reliable
internet also allows day-to-day economic and educational functions to
operate substantially during any social-distancing measures, which are
central to preventing community spread of this highly contagious disease,”
the letter read.

“It is also urgent to bring to your attention the plight of hundreds of
Kashmiri political prisoners, who remain detained in unhygienic conditions
in various jails in Kashmir and across India, and are therefore at a grave
and increased risk of infection.”

Responding to the restrictions in the disputed territory of Jammu and
Kashmir, Amnesty International India said in a statement
<https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/03/mitigate-risks-of-covid-19-for-jammu-and-kashmir-by-immediately-restoring-full-access-to-internet-services/>
that failing to allow people access to information might amount to human
rights violations.
'False sense of superiority'

India and Israel's ties have strengthened significantly in recent years,
especially under Modi and Netanyahu. Though trade in arms forms the bedrock
of the relationship, both countries are increasingly relying on each other
or find ways to allude to their alliance.

In attempting to echo calls for social distancing, the Israeli prime
minister also suggested that Israelis stop shaking hands and greet each
other with "Namaste"
<https://www.newsweek.com/benjamin-netanyahu-encourages-namaste-greeting-place-handshakes-during-coronavirus-outbreak-1490622>
instead.

India once called Zionism racist. Today it moves to replicate it

Last week, Netanyahu reportedly asked
<https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/netanyahu-requested-pm-modi-to-allow-export-of-masks-pharmaceuticals-to-israel-report/article31067020.ece>Modi
to approve the export of masks and pharmaceutical raw materials to Israel,
after India had banned the export of these items to meet its own domestic
requirements.

India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment and now accounts
for 46 percent of Israel's arms exports.

"Our national resources should be used to tackle the Covid-19 threat; to
testing and equipment and for the development of a vaccine, if possible,"
Apoorvanand says.

"But India is not even thinking about that. India is not ambitious at all.
It has a false sense of superiority, which it is trying to show through a
stockpiling of armaments."
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