Hindus in India feel like Jews and “look up to” Israel, an Israeli diplomat who spent three years in India before taking up her new post in London has said.
Hodaya Avzada said the connection could not be based on population, where there is a vast discrepancy between Indians and Jews.
“But they do relate to us very much,” she claimed.
“They feel like they have to protect Hinduism, which in a lot of ways is a national feeling rather than just being a religion.
“Hinduism is a religion, and people practise it, but people feel they have to protect Hinduism, not just in India but in countries in say, south-east Asia, where they are in small numbers — Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, some in Pakistan.
“There is a feeling that they have to protect their Hindu identity”.
Avzada, who is now head of politics and civil society at Israel’s London embassy, was formerly the political adviser at the embassy in New Delhi, fostering relations between Israel and India.
Speaking to a lunch audience organised by Technion UK, a charity which raises money for Israel’s Technion university, she said: “Being an Israeli in India is amazing. Being an Israeli diplomat in India is outstanding.
“They look at Israel as a trademark of quality, and look up to us in so many ways.
“Israel was a country created from nothing, had no natural resources, no nothing, and then became this regional superpower.
“Security-wise Israel’s experience also speaks to India - because India also has security threats around it, and Israel is of course well-known for its defence forces.”
Indians are “very open to collaboration,” the diplomat added.
“In every meeting we would go to, we would get requests in every field. India-Israel relations have come a long way.
“We started with non-alignment and Nehru [India’s first prime minister after independence] did not acknowledge the state of Israel initially.
“Now we have just celebrated 30 years of full diplomatic relations, and being Israeli in India is a very positive experience.”
Six months into her UK job, Avzada presides over a department which is unique to the London embassy, taking in British politics, the academic world, and health.
She spoke warmly of a new project which is a tie-in with an NHS Trust in north-east England, giving Israeli expertise in remote medicine to an area which does not have easy access to medical facilities.
Asked if she believed her work was suffering in the UK from the present political turbulence in Israel, she gave a diplomat’s answer.
“Yes, there are challenges. But in Britain, they are very polite - they won’t say to your face that they don’t want to hear what you have to say."
“But it doesn’t stop us from collaborating on significant projects together”.