The Government of India has over the last two days condemned the air strikes Israel carried out in the Gaza Strip and urged an ""immediate end to use of force against Palestinian civilians in Gaza that has resulted in large number of casualties"".

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/29/2018 TAGS: MOPS, PTER, PREL, IS, IN SUBJECT: INDIA CENSURES ISRAELI STRIKES IN GAZA

Classified By: POLCOUNS Ted Osius for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)

1. (U) The Government of India has over the last two days condemned the air strikes Israel carried out in the Gaza Strip and urged an ""immediate end to use of force against Palestinian civilians in Gaza that has resulted in large number of casualties"". The GOI statement, released by the External Affairs Ministry on the same day Israel launched the air strikes, follows India's past practice of publicly condemning Israeli actions for public consumption, yet privately protecting healthy bilateral relations.

2. (C) The Israeli Embassy in New Delhi was not surprised by the reaction from the Indian government. Israeli DCM Belotsercovsky told PolOff that considering the large Muslim vote bank that Indian politicians are trying to appeal to in the general elections - scheduled for April or May 2009 - India's response was ""relatively moderate."" The fact that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs also acknowledged the Palestinian's ""cross-border provocations resulting from rocket attacks particularly against targets in southern Israel"" was reassuring to Belotsercovsky, who said that although not happy with India's response, the Israelis were ""not very much depressed"" about it either.

3. (C) According to Congress Party MP Raashid Alvi, the Indian reaction to Israel's actions was ""a routine, fill-in-the-blanks type statement"" and nothing substantial should be read into it. India has very strong ties with Israel and needs its cooperation to counter terrorist attacks in the future. With Parliamentary elections around the corner, the ruling party feels it must make such statements to keep its Muslim constituency pacified, Alvi told PolOff.

4. (C) Comment: The Government of India again walks a tightrope influenced by its election cycle. It must convey to Israel that it understands Israel's current plight while doing its diplomatic duty to condemn what is seen by many here as oppressive tactics. From time to time Muslim leaders in India organize protests when they feel the GOI has not taken a strong enough stance against Israel during heightened periods of violence, and it is likely that by quickly condemning the air strikes, the Indian government felt it could preempt such demonstrations. End Comment.

MULFORD