Vijeta Uniyal

Indian government rejects anti-Israel resolution, hinting wider policy shift

In what should be seen as seismic shift in India’s attitude towards Israel, Indian government on Tuesday has given tacit support to Israel in the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

On Tuesday, the newly elected Centre-Right government in India refused to table an opposition sponsored resolution in the parliament.

The government was unmoved by the uproar and staged walkout by the opposition. The Speaker of House ruled out the opposition demand for a statement critical of Israel by the government, saying that it was not possible for the government to “react on every issue.”

He went ahead and questioned the sincerity of opposition’s anti-Israel stand and called it to be motivated by “political considerations”, politically correct lingo for appeasing Muslim voters (that make up to 14% of Indian electorate).

This move should be seen as India’s tacit support for Israeli operations against Hamas in Gaza. It is significant move in light of India’s traditional pro-Palestinian foreign policy.

The newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely considered to be as a friend of Israel and the ruling Centre-Right Bharatiya Janata Party has taken pro-Israel positions in past – in sharp contrast to other political parties.

The change in government’s position could also be a reflection of the mood of party functionaries and supporters. During the ongoing Gaza conflict many influential BJP figures, organizations and local units posted messages supportive of Israel on internet. Over the weekend the hashtag #IndiaWithIsrael was trending on twitter and held the top slot even during bustling hours of the World Cup final match on Sunday.

The opposition was quick to lament the government’s decision. A prominent female MP, who was censured by the Speaker of the House for displaying a placard, later lamented that Yasser Arafat considered India’s late PM Indira Gandhi as “his sister” and Mrs. Gandhi in turn stood all her life for the “Palestinian cause.”

Another political heavy-weight, the former Deputy Foreign Minister Shashi Tharoor wanted government to stand for “peace and justice” and approach the UN. On a side note it would be worth remembering that Tharoor himself served as the UN Under-Secretary-General, where his career came to an end in 2007 after his failed bid for the post of UN Secretary General.

The Indian government’s current stand is still short of an open endorsement of Israel’s actions directed against Hamas in Gaza, but it is still a tacit approval.

There is lot be desired from India’s foreign policy which has been historically tilted against Israel, but this decision today should be mark a turning point in India’s foreign policy towards Israel.

About the Author
Vijeta Uniyal is an Indian journalist based in Europe. He is Contributing Editor for the Commentator and Senior Distinguished Fellow at New York-based Gatestone Institute. He graduated from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) and worked for more than 10 years in international organisations, including German Foreign Office, German Minister for Economics and Technology, Goethe Institute and Humboldt Foundation.