UN Jerusalem vote: Why India voted against the US
The US suffered a telling if symbolic defeat in the United Nations General Assembly which voted 128-9 with 35 abstensions on a resolution that denounces the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. India was among many friends of the US who voted against the administration’s decision. The resolution will have no effect on West Asia, least of all the moribund Palestinian peace process. In normal circumstances, the lopsided vote would have been a warning shot to the US about the direction of its West Asia policy. Today, it will probably encourage Trump to further make the US an irresponsible stakeholder in West Asia.
The rest of the world can only continue to uphold the principles on which previous West Asian peace processes have been based – one of them being that the final status of Jerusalem should be part of a final peace agreement – until there is clarity on Mr Trump’s endgame. If the US is signalling a desire to extricate itself from the peace process then the question is whether there is anyone else prepared to pick up the slack. Another question: is the Palestinian issue a priority in a region where deeper, more dangerous conflicts and fault lines have emerged?
Indeed, many countries are being forced to think through their West Asian interests. India is no exception. This is why New Delhi has begun saying its views on issues such as the Jerusalem one will not be based on those of “third countries.” India now de-hyphenates its Israel and Palestine relations, letting them run on separate tracks.
The defence relationship with Israel is alone so broad and deep that it cannot be hostage to the views of the Arab world. Nonetheless, India remains of the view that secular Palestinians deserve an independent nation. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Israel and Palestine on two separate journeys he will symbolically reflect this reality. So does the fact that India cast its UN vote just a month before the State visit of the Israeli prime minister.
Clearly defining the country’s public position, and explaining it others players is an urgent task for emerging powers such as India that have to operate in turbulent regions like West Asia. Restating fuzzy principles and making impractical suggestions are no longer sufficient.
With the US surrendering its honest broker status and no alternative visible, West Asia is a diplomatic minefield that needs mapping before someone accidentally steps on one.