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Maintaining balance

Early resolution of Palestine issue and implications for India

The resumption on Palestine-Israel peace talks in late July 2013 after four year interregnum at the behest of US has evoked positive response from India, which is indicative of India’s deep interest in the early resolution of the conflict.

India needs cordial relations and close partnership, both with the Jews and the Arabs, hence the early resolution of the longstanding conflict will be in India’s national interests. Considering the very antagonistic relations between Israel and the Arab world India needs to make a fine balance and do a tight rope walk to advance India’s cause.

Though India never fails to make acerbic comments towards Israel whenever the Palestinians areas are attacked by the Israeli forces, India also is gradually deepening its relationship with Israel. In a belated reaction the Indian Permanent Representative at the UN welcomed the US initiative and hoped that direct peace talks will lead to concrete results. This is in tune with keeping the domestic constituency in mind and also these comments follow the international trends. India has accepted the necessity of two state solutions for lasting peace in the Middle East, but never fails to denounce Israeli aggression on the Palestinian land.

India’s dependence

However, in recent years India has been strenuously trying to maintain a balance between Israel and Palestine. Over the years India has become overtly dependent on Israeli defence technology, which is offered without any strings attached.
Even, the Israelis do not bother about the international sanctions regime, which also applies on India.  In the previous decades India was the most vocal country in favor of Palestine but growing defence and security ties with Israel has helped India in raising its strategic profile in its vicinity. To deepen its engagement with India at the people’s level, Israel is now extensively promoting agriculture cooperation with India, which is making Indian farmers prosperous in many parts of the country. In fact, the irrigation and dry land farming technology being promoted by Israel will raise India’s agriculture productivity to new heights.

On the other hand India’s economic dependence on the Middle East is no less significant for Indian economy. More than 3.8 million Indians live in West Asia and enriching Indian coffers by US$ 60 billion annually.   

Indians are a major force in these countries without whom the region could not have prospered the way it is today. India also depends on the Gulf region for its energy requirements. Energy is the most vital link between India and the West Asian States, with whom India needs a very good working relation.

Though the Arab world has largely been supportive of the Pakistan stand on Kashmir and the OIC never fails to warn India on Kashmir, India has continued with its principled stand on Palestine.

Since these nations of the Arab world are stridently anti Israel and fight on every issue for the Palestinian cause India cannot afford to antagonize them. At the same time countries like China has been courting Israel ignoring its avowed policy of support to Palestine.

Even a prominent flag bearer of Islamic faith and active member of OIC, Pakistan has made advances for establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. Hence real politic demands that India, in its national security interests also develop a very constructive partnership with Israel, which in fact is a win-win relations for both the countries.

But Indian leadership is deeply conscious of its minority vote bank and like to keep the bilateral interactions at various levels under wraps.  

Continued support

However as a matter of principle, India has been extremely supportive of the Palestinian cause and has expressed the necessity of addressing the issue of Israeli settlement activities which have continued unabated and remain a serious obstacle.

According to Indian officials, these activities are not only illegal but also pose a serious threat to the two state solutions. Hence India has called upon Israel to stop these settlement activities.

On the other hand India has supported the Palestinian demand for the full and equal membership of the United Nations. India even went to the extent of sponsoring the General Assembly resolution in November 2012 that upgraded the status of Palestine to a non member Observer State.

However India has explicitly stated that India continues its consistent support for a negotiated solution to the Palestinian issue, resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Interestingly, Israeli leaders have said that they would never agree to such demands.

India has been contributing to the Palestinian budget and last year India extended a grant of US$ 10 million. Thus while raising the stakes in its relations with Israel by deepening the economic, security and agricultural ties; India has displayed its sincere desire to help the Palestinians by taking concrete actions.  

India invites the Palestinian leaders and often dispatches its senior leaders to Palestine, while the Israeli leaders are not encouraged to visit India and Indian leaders seldom visit Israel. But the official level contacts between the two nations are extremely intense, which has resulted in India acquiring state of the art defence technology.  This relationship is now gradually expanding in the agriculture domain, which will help India raise its farm output.

Before, the decade of nineties, India viewed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through an ideological lens and also dictated by domestic vote bank politics. However, only in early nineties when the then PM Narasimha Rao decided to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, the bilateral relations have grown by leaps and bounds.

With no other nation India’s relations have deepened so fast as with Israel, within a short span of two decades.

After the end of Cold War, India found a true security partner in Israel. And the Non Aligned Movement also lost its relevance. On NAM’s platform India used to shout at the top of its voice denouncing the Jewish State. The 1991 Madrid peace process encouraged India to renounce strident anti Israel policy as the leaders found that even the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the Arab world is willing to negotiate with Israel.

In fact the unqualified support for Palestinians has reaped few direct benefits to Indian interests. Indian leaders even now assume that the anti Israeli stance is viewed as a barometer for India’s pro Arab policy and will impress the Indian Muslim population. India also uses its anti Israeli policy as a means to appease the Arab world but it does not seem hostage to its pro Palestinian policy, while advancing its relations with Israel.

The two countries last year celebrated the two decades of diplomatic relations but India still seems to be hesitant of pushing the relationship openly and transparently in full public gaze. Though the security concerns of the two nations are the same and Israel has extensively assisted India in strengthening its anti-terror capabilities, India feel shy of publicly accepting the evolving security partnership with Israel and never fails to chide them, whenever Israeli forces launch an attack on the Palestinians.

India believes that if violent protests by the Palestinians get radicalized, it will not be good for regional peace and stability which will affect not only Indian economic interests but impact also the world energy stability.

Therefore concrete action will have to be taken to end the occupation of the Arab lands so that peace prevails in the region and the Palestinian people embark on road to peaceful coexistence with the Israelis which will have a positive impact on the stability in entire West Asia.