Bridge to nowhere: On India’s voice, Israel and the Palestinian cause  

India should be forceful in articulating its position on Gaza

November 15, 2023 12:20 am | Updated 08:30 am IST

Two weeks after abstaining from a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Israeli strikes on Gaza, India voted in favour of five of six annual draft resolutions at the UNGA’s Fourth Committee that criticised Israel for increasing settlements in the Occupied Territories, was in favour of Palestinians’ right to homes and property, and supported the UN Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) operating in Gaza. The official explanation of the votes as “routine” affirmation of India’s traditional policy has only added to the confusion over the government’s stand on the crisis. Its Explanation of Vote in the original UNGA resolution in October said that India could not vote for a resolution that did not include an “explicit condemnation” of the October 7 attacks by Hamas. However, none of the six resolutions, including one in which India abstained, that discusses investigating Israel for rights violations, actually referred to the October 7 attacks. These were instead identical to resolutions that India had voted for before, and neither India nor any other country at the Fourth Committee deliberations proposed amendments. The Israeli envoy, in fact, demanded a rejection of the “anti-Israel” resolutions as they did not contain references to the current situation. Cuba argued that the resolutions were important to vote for, but that they also did not contain references to the more than 11,000 Palestinians killed, including 4,000 children, and the displaced (nearly a million). India did not propose amendments, nor did any Indian diplomat speak, although a lengthier explanation may be expected when the resolutions are put to a vote by the UNGA next month — by which time more of Gaza would have been flattened.

At a time when every day counts, New Delhi appears unwilling to exert itself to making a difference. True, the government continues to hold its traditional stand on support for the Palestinian cause and a two-state solution (which it reaffirmed during the recent India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial meeting), and that it “stands by” Israel, with “zero tolerance” for terror attacks. However, it has not joined the call for a ceasefire or explicitly asked for an end to the strikes on civilian targets, where Israel claims it is hunting for Hamas fighters and searching for hostages. Nor has it named Hamas for the terror attacks or changed Indian law, as the Israeli Ambassador to India called for, to designate Hamas as a terror group. More than a month after Israel’s reprisals began, the government must explain its position on the conflict, including where, if anywhere, India could play a role in alleviating the situation. The upcoming Voice of Global South and G-20 virtual summits may present the opportunity to articulate options for ending the violence, recovering Israeli hostages, as well as post-conflict scenarios for Gaza and Palestinians. India’s voice, once known for being forceful and balanced on such issues, must not be replaced by an expedient silence.

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