Abdul Bari Masoud | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—India’s abstention on a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 20 that called for the establishment of an international independent commission to investigate Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza, targeting civilians, marked a ‘decisive shift’ in its long-held West Asia policy — away from Palestine and towards Israel.
Former Member of Parliament K C Tyagi, who is also a member of the Executive Committee of Parliamentarians for Al Quds (Jerusalem), said that India’s abstention during a vote at the UN Human Rights Council and India’s permanent representative at UN dropping the stock phrase “just cause of Palestinians” from his speech clearly indicated a clear shift in India’s West Asia policy which shows it is tilted in favour of Israel.
“Some Arab nations overt and covert support to Israel and establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state provided room to some countries to move from their stated Palestine policy,” Tyagi pointed out.
“That is also the case of India but I still stick to the old position,” he stated.
Foreign affairs expert Qamar Agha says that “India that used to champion the cause of Palestine, seems to have become a thing of the past if we look at India’s position in recent conflict into account.”
Stating that India’s drift began towards Israel during the Congress rule and that got impetus after the Oslo accord, Agha said, “It is not surprising for India having skipped the vote against Israel given India’s strategic partnership with Israel in several spheres, including anti-terror mechanism. Moreover, the resolution was sponsored by the OIC which has taken a stand on Jammu and Kashmir in line with Pakistan.”
Agha also echoed the views of Tyagi by saying that India did not find any objection from Arab nations for its establishing diplomatic relations with Jewish state that embolden it to further deepen the relationship on a range of issues.
India’s real relations are with Israel’ : Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan
West Asia affairs expert Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan pointed out that India’s relations with the Zionist state have gone from strength to strength after India’s first established diplomatic relations during the Congress rule in 1992 while at the same time reiterating that it is committed to the rights of the Palestinians according to International and UN resolutions.
“This remains the official Indian position but it was further diluted under Mr Modi,” Dr. Khan said.
“Now India’s commitment to Palestine is mere a lip service while its real relations are with Israel which occupies Palestinian land and persecutes them in every possible way,” he explained.
Stating that India recognised Israel on the assumption that Oslo Accords of 1992 have solved the Palestinian problem, he said that the reality is that the occupied Palestinian people and their territories are not only continue to be occupied but hundreds of illegal Jewish settlements have been built ever since on land supposed to be returned to the Palestinians.
“Moreover, for the last 16 years, Gaza Strip is under Israeli siege which is a clear violation of International Law but India does not speak anything about it or the illegal settlements, both of which are legal and moral issues about which no democracy should remain silent,” Dr. Khan who has authored several books on Palestine, said.
“Perceptible shift” in Indian position towards Israel: Congress
India’s main opposition Congress has also noted “a perceptible shift” in Indian position towards Israel.
“Press reports indicating a perceptible shift in the Indian position between the Indian intervention in the UN Security Council on May 16 and our statement in the UN General Assembly on May 20, have conveyed the widespread impression that India has moved away from its traditional policy in the area,” India’s chief opposition party said in a statement.
India’s former ruling party underlined that “It was appropriate for our initial statement to note that the intrusion by Israeli forces into the Holy Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan prayers ruptured the delicate peace in the region. Omitting that in our statement to the General Assembly, where sympathy for the Palestinians is far more extensive than in the Security Council, was incomprehensible.”
“It must not be lost sight of that this unacceptable intrusion into the holy precincts was the immediate flashpoint,” it added.
A sentence that “India’s strong support to the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-State solution,” which was part of the Indian statement in the UN Security Council, was absent from the General Assembly statement, raising questions about the overall direction of our policy in the region”.
The statement further pointed out that the Indian representative’s later statement has also conveyed the impression that India has departed from its time-tested commitment to Palestine and thrown its support entirely to Israel.
However, the Congress also condemned the firing of rockets by Hamas, a resistance Palestinian movement, that was in response to Israeli provocation. But the party tried to balance it by saying that “disproportionate retaliation” by Israel, “a much stronger, organised military is unacceptable.”
Reminding the BJP-led Government at the Centre that India’s foreign policy has historically been bipartisan, the opposition Congress said, “It is in this spirit that we reiterate the traditional position in support of the two-state solution, with appropriate recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of independent Palestine, must not be undermined by omission”.
It urged the government of India to maintain a good relationship with both parties to the conflict and not to be influenced by expediency to dilute India’s commitment to Palestine.
India’s abstention at UNHRC is “shocking”: Welfare Party
The Welfare Party of India also strongly criticized India’s abstention from the vote on the resolution against Israel.
Welfare party president Dr SQR Ilyas said it is very unfortunate when India had an opportunity to be fair and just it chose to abstain from the voting. He pointed out that this sudden shift is shocking and amounts to indirect support of and complicity in the genocide of Palestinians. He said India should revisit its decision and should strongly support investigation surrounding Israel’s brutality in Gaza and of the ‘systematic’ abuses of Palestinians by Israeli forces in occupied territories.
The Welfare Party leader said he disapproved of this balancing act by India owing to its ‘strategic and defence’ relation with Israel adding that it is a gross injustice to the ‘just Palestinians cause’ and a huge threat to world peace.
The 47-member UNHRC, which is based in Geneva, adopted the resolution put forward by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) by a vote of 24-9, with 14 abstentions.
Despite intense pressure brought on by Israel’s powerful friends to erode support for the resolution, the UN Human Rights Council did speak out against rights violations in Occupied Palestinian Territories after the UN Security Council, which has the primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security, was blocked by the United States from taking any action even as the deadly Israeli attacks were causing heavy Palestinian casualties.
International observers were also not surprised by India’s decision to abstain from voting as they underlined that its West Asia policy has been gradually changing under the Hindu-nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with a clear shift seen in Indian envoys’ statements in the UN General Assembly as well as in the UN Human Rights Council that appeared to “appease” Israel as they only “chastised” Hamas for its retaliatory rocket attacks. Those statements also shied away from any expression of concern over the disproportionate use of force by Israel against Palestinians, including women and children, it was pointed out.
At least 285 Palestinians including 67 children were killed in the Israeli attacks in Gaza and West Bank that continued for 11 days.
The OIC and the Arab Group at the UN in New York convened an emergency session of the UN General Assembly on May 20.
The results of the vote on the resolution were as follows:
In favour (24): Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Eritrea, Gabon, Indonesia, Libya, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
Against: (9): Austria, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Czech Republic, Germany, Malawi, Marshall Islands, United Kingdom and Uruguay.
Abstentions: (14): Bahamas, Brazil, Denmark, Fiji, France, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Togo and Ukraine.