India largest buyer of Israeli arms, says Palestinian leader

India's foreign policy with respect to Palestine and its focus on building a defence relationship with Israel has come under fire at a time when the Palestinian Authority and Tel Aviv are engaged in talks with the United States. The first to set the ball rolling was the former Union Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar. At a release of diplomat Talmiz Ahmad's book last week, he came down on the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for deviating from the Nehruvian policy of complete support for the Palestinian Authority.

The theme was picked up at a seminar on Palestine where guest speakers came down on India for building a robust relationship with Israel for purchase of military platform.

Speaking during the open session of the conference, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat criticised the Government of India for deepening defence and security ties with Israel. The government deliberately did not name Israel in a statement issued by the MEA after the Israeli attack on a Gaza flotilla. There was an impression among ordinary Kashmiris that India was seeking advice from Israel on handling the situation there, he said. All this was happening because the voice in solidarity with the Palestinian people in India had weakened within Parliament.

Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti said the arms that Israel was supplying to India were tested on the Palestinian people in Gaza. India was the largest buyer of Israeli arms and the international campaign for Palestine would not succeed unless a strong people's movement was launched in India to change the Government of India's pro-Israel shift.

Professor Aijaz Ahmed pointed out how the Indian National Congress leadership's position on Palestine had changed over the decades. Mahatma Gandhi unambiguously recognised the rights of Palestinian people on their land, a view which was later championed by Jawaharlal Nehru and his followers in the Non-Aligned Movement. However, the official Indian position had shifted since the 1990s towards maintaining closer ties with Israel. He linked the shift with the emergence of Hindutva and neo-liberalism, and the fall of the socialist block.

“It is very sad that the main military goods Israel is now exporting to India are to fight the so-called insurgents. The relationship is unnatural in some ways because geopolitics says ties between India and the Arabs are natural,” noted Jamal Zahalka, a member of the Israeli Knesset.

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