The nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of India has recently been criticised for its role as a “spectator” in the Israeli attack on Gaza. Opposition parties even “walked out of the upper house of parliament” when the BJP “refused to pass a resolution condemning Israel for its invasion of the Gaza Strip”.
The government claims its policy of “equidistance” is a ‘legacy of the past governments’ and represents full “support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel”. It thus seeks to avoid ‘discourteous references’ which could have an impact on relations with Israel, such as the word ‘condemn’ which, according to foreign policy expert C Uday Bhaskar, would be an ‘inappropriate choice of word’.
Dr Harsh Dobhal, meanwhile, says the current Indian government has tried to maintain equal relations with Israel and Palestine in spite of the fact that they “cannot be treated at par” because “Israel is an occupier and Palestine is occupied”. With over a thousand (mostly civilian) deaths in Gaza and another 6,000 injured, the question Dobhal asks is if all Palestinians deserve to suffer for the actions of Hamas, whether they voted for them in 2006 or not. Other Indians have also criticised Israel’s disproportionate actions in Gaza, though only small student protests have taken place. One student in New Delhi affirmed that India was now “betraying” its history of support for “anti-colonial struggles”, and that protesters were “beaten up” by the police, even though they had previously announced their plans to protest.
Ideologically, the BJP is “closer” to Israel, according to Middle-East-expert Professor AK Pasha, and thus seeks a strong relationship with the state which will allow it to learn from its “anti-terrorism” tactics. These ideological similarities could also been seen on Twitter, with the hashtag #IndiaWithIsrael hoping to encourage thousands of Indians to support Israel because of its support in the 1971 and 1999 wars with Pakistan. Indian author Chetan Bhagat even said that the Israeli invasion, though unfair, was “sadly… the only way… terrorist organisations and their supporters learn to behave”.
Historically, India has been supportive of the Palestinian cause, becoming the first non-Arab state to recognise it and, in 1974, accept the position of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the “sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”. In 1949, meanwhile, it made its stance clear by voting “against Israel’s induction into the United Nations”.
In recent decades, however, things have changed, with official diplomatic ties beginning in 1992 shortly after the intensification of the Pakistani-backed armed rebellion in Kashmir. And, during the Kargil Mountains conflicts in 1999, the relationship became significantly stronger, as Tel Aviv sent “unmanned reconnaissance… to help India… boost [its] war efforts”.
The increasingly militarist and capitalist India saw a friend in Israel and, in the past decade, it became the “largest buyer of Israeli defence equipment”, spending around $10bn. The country’s increasing support for Israel, however, according to Pasha, is likely to “have adverse effects both domestically and overseas”, as the ‘bulk of Indian energy comes from the Arab world’, and “millions of Indians work in [the] Middle East and… send billions in remittances”.
Although New Delhi supported the idea of unity between the “Hamas and Fatah factions in Palestine”, Bhaskar insists that Hamas’s support for violent resistance and the “destruction of Israel” leaves India, and many other countries, without a “black and white choice” between supporting Palestine or Israel.
And it is indeed difficult to support Hamas’s traditionally violent and uncompromising stance, but it is also necessary to condemn the Israeli State’s massacre of Palestinian civilians and understand that Palestinians are angry for a reason. Popular education and awareness of the history of the region is of great importance in order for the world’s citizens to understand the conflict and put pressure on the international community to act. As long as this community continues to sit on the fence for economic or political reasons, however, innocent Palestinians will continue to suffer and no permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be reached. Therefore, we need to demand that our governments stop fuelling the conflict with military assistance (mostly to Israel), and that they make it clear that Israel will be held accountable if it continues to murder innocent civilians. Only in this way will the powerful Israeli State be forced to sit around the table and truly invest time and effort into peacefully resolving this decades-old conflict.
Adapted by Oso Sabio from an article posted by Baba Umar on 27 Jul 2014 at http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/07/india-israel-gaza-crisis-palestine-hamas-bjp-2014727121259998483.html