View From India | India’s evolving stand on the Israel-Hamas war

Updated - November 28, 2023 12:37 pm IST

Published - November 27, 2023 01:24 pm IST

(This article forms a part of the View From India newsletter curated by The Hindu’s foreign affairs experts. To get the newsletter in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.)

This week, our writers looked at India’s evolving stand on the Israel-Hamas war. Traditionally, write Suhasini Haidar and Kallol Bhattacherjee, India’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict has always aligned with the Global South, offering full support for the Palestinian cause. It has called for talks to end the conflict, while building stronger strategic, defence, and counter-terrorism cooperation and trade ties with Israel since 1992, after the two countries established full diplomatic relations.

India’s vote on October 26, however, was a departure, when it lined up alongside 45 abstentions, mostly from European countries, rather than 120 countries, mostly from the Global South. At the same time, India has stood apart from Western countries in that it has not thus far banned Hamas, or designated it a terror organisation as the U.S., U.K., Switzerland and Germany have done. In an effort perhaps to push India to do so, Israel this week announced it was banning the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks that included Israeli victims, 15 years later.

On Sunday, which marked the 15th anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India faced “the most heinous attack” on this day but it reflected the country’s capability that it recovered. “We can never forget November 26…Terrorists had shaken Mumbai and the entire country. But, it is India’s capability that we recovered from that attack and now we are also crushing terrorism with full courage,” the PM said.

The Khalistan issue and India’s ties with the West

Last week, the Financial Times reported the U.S. government had thwarted a plot to kill Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on U.S. soil, and had “warned” New Delhi about its alleged involvement in the plot. Pannun, who is a designated terrorist in India, is an American and Canadian citizen and the legal counsel for Sikhs for Justice, a body that advocates for a separate Khalistan. The Ministry of External Affairs, in a response to the report that was a marked contrast from the reaction to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s earlier allegations of “a potential link” between the Indian government and the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, said that a security-related discussion took place between India and the U.S. “During the course of recent discussions on India-U.S. security cooperation, the U.S. side shared some inputs pertaining to nexus between organised criminals, gun runners, terrorists and others. The inputs are a cause of concern for both countries and they decided to take necessary follow up action... India takes such inputs seriously since it impinges on our own national security interests as well,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

Who is Pannun? Indian law enforcement agencies are probing about 20 criminal cases against him.

On Canada’s allegations, India was “absolutely” and “decidedly” not involved in the killing, and Ottawa had already “convicted” New Delhi even before the completion of the investigation, India’s High Commissioner here Sanjay Kumar Verma said this weekend, during an interview with CTV News in Canada.

The latest reported claims from the U.S., observed an editorial in The Hindu, indicates the issue over Khalistani separatists is far from dying down, despite New Delhi’s conversations with Western partners at the recent 2+2 dialogues with the U.S. and Australia, respectively, and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s recent visit to the U.K. While these are no doubt matters of national security, it is time the government shed some of the secrecy surrounding its dual responses and crafted its future course of action more coherently, the editorial said.

This week’s World View from Suhasini Haidar looked at the impact of the Khalistan issue on India’s ties with the West.

The Top Five

What we are reading this week – the best of The Hindu’s Opinion and Analysis

1. All eyes are on Dubai this week for the 28th Conference of Parties (CoP-28) and the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS). India on Sunday announced that Prime Minister Modi will attend the WCAS. Ahead of the summit, Rishika Pardikar looked at one of the key issues and a new report published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which showed that economically developed countries fell short of their promise to jointly mobilise $100 billion a year towards the climate mitigation and adaptation needs of developing countries in 2021 – one year past the 2020 deadline.

2. While international attention is focused on Israel’s bombing of Gaza and its ground attacks, Pakistan’s decision to expel 1.5 million undocumented Afghan refugees in the beginning of winter is escaping sufficient global scrutiny, writes Vivek Katju.

3. Don McLain Gill and Harsh Pant on why conditions are prime and interests are converging for India and Japan to operationalise their shared vision for the Indo-Pacific.

4. On the thirtieth anniversary of the Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement, we looked at how three decades on after the first India-China border agreement the mechanisms built to keep the peace on the Line of Actual Control are fraying and in need of urgent revisiting.

5. Saumya Kalia on Javier Milei, Argentina’s “President of chaos”, and how the far-right libertarian economist wants to reconfigure the government’s role, slash public spending and dollarise the economy, in response to Argentina’s worst economic crisis in a generation.

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