Balancing a Nation-State: Israel-Palestine War and India’s Policy

India walked a tightrope since it established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Although India always supported the Palestinian cause, now a shift can be noticed in favour of Israel due to the increasing closeness of bilateral relations, trade, technological assistance, and military procurement. However, India’s balancing policy will become more challenging in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war

By Bikki Sharma

Opinion

Recent events have made it evident that the world is no longer a bipolar structure; in the words of Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, “International relations is not about congruence but about convergence.” But what is the Indian stand on the Middle East crisis? This is the vexing question that haunts the world today. Recently the Head of the Government in India stood in solidarity with Israel condemning any kind of terrorist activities.

However, history recites a different story. In 1974, India became the first non-Arab state to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. In 1988, India became one of the first countries to recognise the Palestinian state. In 1996, India opened its Representative Office in Gaza, which was later shifted to Ramallah in 2003.

In 1974, India became the first non-Arab state to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. In 1988, India became one of the first countries to recognise the Palestinian state

India has played an active role in extending support for the Palestinian cause across various multilateral forums. India co-sponsored the draft resolution on “the right of Palestinians to self-determination” during the 53rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and voted in its favour. India also voted in favour of the UNGA Resolution in October 2003 against the construction of the separation wall by Israel.

What has changed?

Since the upgradation of relations in 1992, defence and agriculture formed the two main pillars of India-Israel bilateral engagement. Now, the relationship has been upgraded to a strategic level with agreements and Memorandums of Understanding signed in the fields of Research and development, innovation, water, agriculture and space. With Israel’s occupation of Palestine, disinformation often comes with a side of anti-Palestinianism and Islamophobia, turbocharged by social media amplification.

To understand the above premise, let us first consider the Marxist view where land becomes the matter of discussion; having a feeling of being ousted from their own homeland the Jews for centuries had to face the atrocities of being a nomadic tribe. However, the first thing the world noticed about the Jews was the ferocity and desperation with which its people defended themselves against attacks from four sides.

When the terror groups affiliated with Hamas tried to engineer their attacks on religious lines as the world was vying for peace, India and the Western world took a stern stand on preserving peace and condemned any kind of terrorist attacks on innocent people

In the first Arab-Israeli war, everyone expected the new state to be defeated easily. Instead, the Israelis not only fought back the aggression but also captured nearly three-fourths of Palestine and the Egyptian part of Eilat on the Red Sea. During this period, it was obvious that the Israeli forces would be seen as the aggressor trying to amass the land that was not theirs, and India’s stand was clear.

However, in recent events, when the terror groups affiliated with Hamas tried to engineer their attacks on religious lines when the world was vying for peace, India and the Western world took a stern stand on preserving peace and condemned any kind of terrorist attacks on innocent people.

In search of a nation-state

Tradition has it that the Jews were driven out of Palestine in their thousands almost 2,000 years ago. In 1867, some rich Jews in Europe founded the World Zionist Organisation with its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. They began to advocate their cause with the European powers, particularly Britain, which controlled the Palestine area. However, the status quo was broken after World War 2 when the Jews maintained that they had enough of life as second-class citizens in Europe.

Hamas cannot justify its attack on Israel but it is also not acceptable for a responsible state to act like an insurgent group, and Israel’s latest demand for over one million Gaza residents to be evacuated as it plans a possible ground offensive will put India in an awkward position

In November 1947, the UN voted in favour of the partition of Palestine. Half of the territory went to Jews to create the new state of Israel. The first thing the world noticed about the new state of Israel was the ferocity and desperation with which its people defended themselves against attacks from four sides viz., Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. The United States, Britain and France guaranteed Israel’s frontiers but still the Arabs refused to recognise the legal status of Israel. However, all this has faded into history and even the UAE has understood any terror activities in the name of religious affiliation must be condemned.

The present scenario

The history of the conflict is also felt by India as it has gone through the same turmoil in the past. India stands in solidarity for peace and also the claims of both the Israeli government and the Palestinian populace noosed in the Gaza Strip. Following this, India launched ‘Operation Ajay’ carrying passengers from Israel to India.

Since 1992, when New Delhi established full diplomatic relations with Israel while supporting the Palestinian cause, India has walked a tightrope. Today, a shift can be noticed in favour of Israel’s position due to the increasing closeness of bilateral relations, trade, technological assistance, and military procurement. Thus, Hamas-led terror outfits will not be able to use its claim of redressing historical grievances to justify its inhuman attacks on Israel. It is, however, not acceptable for a responsible state to act like an insurgent group, and Israel’s latest demand, that over one million Gaza residents be evacuated as it continues to pound the city and plans a possible ground offensive, will make Delhi’s balancing policy tilt even more challenging.

The writer is a professional and experienced writer having worked with multiple organisations. He is a keen observer of global affairs, geopolitics and how it affects the world order. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda