The government on Friday denied what appeared to be a major shift in India’s policy on Israel, after it abstained from a vote against Israel at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. The resolution (A/HRC/29/L.35) had welcomed the U.N. Human Rights Council report, which found evidence of “alleged war crimes” committed by both Israel and Hamas during the Gaza conflict in 2014, particularly calling for accountability of Israeli officials.
Significantly, India had voted against Israel and in favour of the UNHRC resolution in July 2014 that had instituted this very inquiry report into the Gaza violence in which more than 2,300 had been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.
However, the government denied any policy shift, indicating that India had abstained from voting because the UNHRC resolution had included a reference to taking Israel to the International Criminal Court, which India considers “intrusive”.
41 countries voted in favour of the resolution against Israel, while only the U.S. voted against it.
India was one of five countries including Kenya and Macedonia that abstained.
“In the past also, whenever a Human Rights Council resolution had made a direct reference to the ICC, as had happened in the Resolutions on Syria and North Korea, our general approach had been to abstain. We have followed the same principle in our voting on today’s Resolution,'' said the official spokesperson.
However, the vote comes on the back of a number of decisions by the Narendra Modi government that have indicated a growing closeness to Israel and a shift away from past policy. While India did vote against Israel at the UNHRC last July, in parliament, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had refused to make a statement “condemning Israel” for the Gaza strikes.
In September, Mr. Modi had met Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UNGA, and last month the government announced that Mr. Modi would become the first Indian PM to visit Israel.
In December 2014, The Hindu had >reported that a reversal of Indian policy vis-à-vis Israel and Palestine at the U.N. was also being considered by the NDA government.
Congress leader Manish Tewari said the government’s stand at the UNHRC lacked “transparency”. “If the govt is carrying out a policy shift with regard to our traditional position then rather than doing it by stealth they need to take Parliament into confidence.”
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury condemned the vote as a “complete reversal,” saying the Opposition will take it up in Parliament. “Government should withdraw from this position and extend solidarity with Palestine,” he told The Hindu .
At a press conference in May this year, Ms. Swaraj had denied any shift in India's policy on the issue. “To say that we are tilted towards Israel or we are making any changes in our policy is wrong… with regard to Palestine India’s foreign policy has not undergone any change,” she had said.
With Friday’s vote, speculation about a change will grow louder.
(With inputs from Anita Joshua)