It is not clear if the mixed messaging from the NDA government is borne out of poor coordination or if South Block makes the distinction between multilateral censure and direct criticism by India’s political leadership. The latter as a strategy is a difficult tightrope to walk particularly if the crisis prolongs in the weeks ahead. Indian interests are best served not by waffling on the line to take but by exercising candour and pointing that Tel Aviv’s actions in Gaza compound Israel’s isolation, undermine its internal cohesion and further destabilise the region.
Indian leaders are sensitive to Israel as it is a key source of weapons and intelligence, besides having scientific expertise in a range of matters including agriculture, water management, healthcare and cybersecurity. Several Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ms Swaraj, are familiar with the advantages of allying with Israel. The Indian political establishment has, however, not reckoned on the fact that being a big market for Israeli exports also gives New Delhi a measure of leverage with Tel Aviv. India has also accrued a measure of goodwill in Israel over the years, as even the UPA government did not change the course of ties while paying greater lip service to the Palestinians. The Narendra Modi government, therefore, can and must maintain consistency in its messaging on Israel and underline that it can draw a line between material and moral imperatives. The last thing Israel needs is an all-weather friend who cannot tell it like it is.