India

India’s stance on Israel: foreign policy fumble or mere pragmatism?

Flames erupt from a building hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. (AFP Photo)


Although it’s not quite the end of India’s old-school love of Palestine, the NDA’s move to block a discussion in Parliament on the Gaza offensive is a signal it won’t allow Israel-bashing anymore, much less tolerate it.

However, the NDA’s staunch support of Israel at home stands in contrast to a more measured stance in Brazil. The Fortaleza declaration at BRICS summit, which PM Narendra Modi signed along with other leaders, censures Israel on many counts.

Does it represent a foreign policy fumble?

“When the PM has signed the declaration condemning the attack on Gaza, then why is the government shying away for a discussion in Parliament?” senior Left MP, Sitaram Yechury asked, as did other parties.

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The Fortaleza declaration, circulated as an official release by India, says things Israel would not like to hear. It opposed Israel’s “continuous expansion” of settlements in Palestine, calling for solution based on the 1967 borders. It sought East Jerusalem as the future Palestine capital. More significantly, it endorses “intra-Palestinian unity, including the formation of a national unity government”, which refers to Hamas and Palestine government unity.

Foreign policy experts say the document proves that there has been no radical change. “At this stage, government is right not to take sides. But I don’t see any fundamental change in our support for Palestine,” says Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian envoy.

Yet, under the radar, India’s ties have grown deeper with Israel under different governments, centering around defence and security. The UPA government was more discreet about relations, although it ignored concerns of Muslims and Left groupings. The present right-wing government has no such obligations to sound apologetic when it comes to Israel.

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