Why India seeks friendships with both Palestine, Israel: Strong, but not hyphenated

The brand new state had been carved out of Palestine, and India was a friend of its fellow underdog.

Written by Jyoti Malhotra | Published:May 18, 2017 12:29 am
Palestine, Israel, india, india palestine, india palestine relations, india israel, india israel relations, india palestine israel, Mahmoud Abbas, PM modi, narendra modi, United Nations, Cold War, PV Narasimha Rao, Donald Trump, putin, vladimir putin, UP government, indian express news, india news, indian politics, international politics, indian express explained Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI photo

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gifted Prime Minister Narendra Modi a beautiful piece of artwork with his name inscribed in Arabic, an acknowledgment of the fact that Modi, although he is excavating Jawaharlal Nehru’s policy and intimate support for Palestine in favour of Israel, has the energy and bandwidth to at least try and change the game in a revamped world order.

Truth is, President Abbas’s visit to India is a kind of inverted curtainraiser to Modi’s Israel visit on July 5-6 — the first time ever that an Indian Prime Minister would be visiting the country that New Delhi had voted against at the United Nations in 1948. The brand new state had been carved out of Palestine, and India was a friend of its fellow underdog.

It took another 54 years, across the thrust and parry of the Cold War decades, for New Delhi to establish full diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv, in 1992. J N Dixit, India’s larger-than-life foreign secretary, persuaded then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao to overcome opposition in his own Congress party, while he singlehandedly dismantled the outdated modes of thinking in South Block that had kept the two nations apart through the preceding decades.

Something similar has been happening in New Delhi these last few years with Modi at the helm, albeit with much less finesse and almost no conversation. So, while the Ministry of External Affairs should be applauded for recently feting leaders of historically hostile pairs of nations — like Cyprus and Turkey in the same week and now Palestine and Israel over the next two months — the fact is that the Abbas visit is probably much more diplomatic armour and much less beef.

Modi, of course, said all the right things to Abbas, with the requisite panache. India offered its “unwavering support” to the Palestinian cause and said it wanted to see a sovereign Palestine co-existing with Israel, reiterating the 2-state formula that has been in vogue at least since the early 1990s — well before Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak attempted reconciliation at Camp David in 2000.

***

The fact that Abbas came to New Delhi after meeting with Donald Trump, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Vladimir Putin — the Presidents of the United States, Germany and Russia — gives Modi the opportunity to signal to India’s Muslim population that he and the Arab world are friends. After all, he visited both Saudi Arabia and Iran in 2016, hosted the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, for this year’s Republic Day, and has now received Abbas.

According to Talmiz Ahmad, a former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia and India’s ranking Arab expert, Modi’s enthusiasm in reaching out to the Arab world must be welcomed. “India’s relationships with Palestine and Israel are totally separate, and should be weighed on their own merits. The former is about principled support for a cause; the latter is based on national interest,” Ahmad said.

Manish Tewari of the Opposition Congress, who recently visited Tel Aviv and the West Bank city of Ramallah, believes moves are under way on both sides to give momentum to the peace process. India must assist the Palestinians in whatever way it can, should they seek assistance, Tewari said.

Indeed, Indian diplomats argue that in a fast-changing world, long-term strategy must be balanced against the need for more immediate tactics. In the first years after Independence, Jawaharlal Nehru realised that Non-Alignment was a good way not to take sides in the Cold War; he also shaped Non-Aligned Movement to give India a much bigger international profile than a poor, struggling nation might have otherwise got.

But in today’s world of brisk give-and-take among the great powers, it is in India’s interest to engage with several partners at the same time. That is why, analysts say, it is a mistake to treat Palestine and Israel as conjoined twins.

“Modi has succeeded in de-hyphenating the relationship between Palestine and Israel. This is the correct thing to do. The approach to zero-sum diplomacy is wrong for a middle power like India. Middle powers don’t have zero-sum approaches to diplomacy,” Ahmad said.

***

India’s economic ties with Palestine are so poor that they don’t bear recounting. India has probably committed $ 30-40 million towards Palestine’s developmental requirements. With Israel, on the other hand, defence and intelligence cooperation is monumental. After Russia and the US, Israel is India’s third-largest defence supplier — certainly, India is Israel’s largest defence client.

India recently signed three defence deals with Israel amounting to $ 3 billion, which included the acquisition of 164 targetting pods to be used by the Indian Air Force, and a number of precision-guided bombs. Israeli avionics have been routinely used on Russian defence hardware that is sold to India.

Rajesh Rajagopalan, professor of international politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said he is surprised that the Modi visit to Israel did not happen earlier, considering the BJP has always looked at Israel with awe and admiration. At a meeting in Surat some weeks ago, Modi told the crowd, “I am soon going to Israel. In fact, I am the first Prime Minister to go to Israel, and I am going there on your behalf. You have trading relations with that country.”

Certainly, no such affection has been displayed towards Mahmoud Abbas. Modi’s statement welcoming the dignitary is said to be among the shortest he has made since he came to power. “The Palestinian President’s visit was perhaps something of a cover to make sure the Opposition didn’t criticise him too much at home before he went to Israel. Probably he was advised to wait until the UP elections got over,” Rajagopalan said.

With UP under his belt and no political challenge in the foreseeable future, the Prime Minister believes he can be the undisputed master of India’s foreign policy. With the Abbas visit done, it’s time for Israel. The Prime Minister’s social media team could be already composing his tweets in Hebrew.

jyoti.malhotra@expressindia.com

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

  1. Z
    zafar
    May 22, 2017 at 1:36 pm
    All that Israeli leaders needed to do was to adhere to the script: Palestinians are terrorists, we have no peace partner, Israel is a democracy, our wars are all carried out in self-defense and so on. The media repeated such misleading notions in unison. Palestinians, oppressed, occupied and disowned were duly demonized. Those who knew the truth about the situation either faced the risk of speaking out – and suffered the consequences – or remained silent. But as the saying goes, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Justice for Palestinians, which once appeared as if a ‘lost cause’ received a massive resurgence during the Second Palestinian Intifada (Uprising) in 2000. Growing awareness resulting from the dedicated work of many intellectuals, journalists and students saw the arrival of thousands of international activists to Palestine as part of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
    Reply
    1. Z
      zafar
      May 22, 2017 at 1:33 pm
      Those who dared challenge that skewed paradigm through resistance in Palestine were eliminated or imprisoned; those who challenged Israel in public arenas anywhere in the world were smeared as ‘anti-Semitic’ or ‘self-hating Jews’. Things seemed to move forward nicely for Israel. With American-western financial and military aid, the size, population and economy of illegal settlements grew at a
      Reply
      1. Z
        zafar
        May 22, 2017 at 1:33 pm
        The Israeli state has violated international law more than any other country, yet has rarely, if ever, been held accountable for its crimes and misconduct. Israel’s successful public relation campaigns through the ever-wil western media partners, coupled with the relentless work and pressure carried out by its powerful backers in Washington DC, London, Paris and elsewhere, has borne stupendous results. For a while, it seemed that Israel was capable of maintaining its occupation and denying Palestinians their rights indefinitely, while promoting itself as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.
        Reply
        1. C
          Chandu Shah
          May 20, 2017 at 8:31 pm
          India should learn from Israel on how to deal with stone throwers in Kashmir
          Reply
          1. E
            Employ Ment
            May 20, 2017 at 8:17 pm
            💲💲मुफ्त रोजगार योजना💲💲 ✔मोदी जी द्वारा चलाए गए डिजिटल इन्डिया से जुड़े और कमाए हर महीने 15,000 - 50,000 रुपए ✔अब कोई नही रहेगा बेरोज़गार और नही करेगा कोई बेरोज़गार आत्महत्या ✔क्योंकि अब आ गई है 21वीं सदी की सबसे बड़ी रोज़गार क्रांति ✔हमारा सपना पूरे भारत को ही नही पूरी दुनिया को डिजिटल इंडिया से जोड़ना 💲सबका साथ सबका विकास💲 ➡शुरुवात कैसे करे ✔C.h.a.m.p`C.a.s.h को प्ले स्टोर से इन्स्टल करे, और साइन अप करे, $1 डॉलर बोनस स्पौन्सर ID: 468942 ➡चैलेंज को पूरा करे ➡और इंकम करनी शुरू करे 👇🏻इसे जरूर नोट कर ले👇🏻 स्पौन्सर ID: 468942 ........................ Ubshhsjnsjoz
            Reply
            1. Y
              Yogesh
              May 20, 2017 at 2:14 pm
              India and Israel Bhai Bhai
              Reply
              1. K
                Kamal Pasha
                May 18, 2017 at 11:37 am
                BJP government of Modi is anti-Muslims as have been proved by the m kil s of Muslims in Gujrat when Modi was Chief Minister of Gujrat and also the kil s of Muslims are goining on in Kashmir since many years. Modi is lier and can not be trusted at all.
                Reply
                1. E
                  Essu
                  May 18, 2017 at 2:05 pm
                  What about Muslims. They are kil daily through out the world in the name of Islam.
                  Reply
                  1. G
                    Gopal Sriniwasan
                    May 19, 2017 at 11:31 pm
                    In every Islamic, Country Muslims KILL fellow Muslims and turn the land into a KIL FIELD.Is that okay for the likes of you.?
                    Reply
                  2. K
                    Kabir Kabir
                    May 18, 2017 at 11:33 am
                    Why should we support Palestine? Do they support us vis-a-vis stan. None of the Arab countries support us when it comes to stan. So why should we support them. Israel, on the other hand, has consistently supported us. It's a shame that no Indian PM has visited Israel until now. As far as Nehru is concerned, it is because of him that we have a Kashmir 'problem'. And not to forget he got pla for a fool by China in 1962.
                    Reply
                    1. G
                      gogogo
                      May 18, 2017 at 11:11 am
                      Indians are second to the Jews in education and money matters in USA and UK. Zafar Hilaly said that on TV and he was not very far from the truth.
                      Reply
                      1. G
                        gogogo
                        May 18, 2017 at 11:08 am
                        Israel is a technological giant.
                        Reply
                        1. M
                          MyTake
                          May 18, 2017 at 7:32 am
                          India, due to its inputs from Vedic civilization is in a unique position to have good relations with anyone who desires so. Many in the recent past didn't know what India really is but was burdened to represent it due to some selfish reason and allowed to represent it, thus gave a mutated view of it. Compared to India no one else has so much diversity and there is no reason why others can't have their place in that diversity if committing to maintain peace and prosperity and respect others. The bad sman of India sold India very badly over the years and others found it difficult to even relate to it. Now that a regime with its soul is in right place to represent what a India is, there is no reason why others would find it difficult to relate to it!
                          Reply
                          1. K
                            krishna
                            May 18, 2017 at 7:13 am
                            No muslim country ever supported India. Palestinians or for that matter no muslim country ever recognized Israel as a sovereign independent Jewish state. It will be a colossal b er to support Palestinians. Israel is our friend and ally. Support Israel always.
                            Reply
                            1. T
                              Tushar
                              May 18, 2017 at 10:56 am
                              Yeahhh ... Make them our friend .and keep on watching how they intrude in our economical , defence ,cultural department and influence to have their dominance ... Israel is considered to be a illi CIT child of US and UK...they see business in everything and of course they would glue with modi sarkar easily since both have a common enemy
                              Reply
                              1. G
                                gogogo
                                May 18, 2017 at 11:09 am
                                'Israel is considered to be a illi CIT child of US and UK'' Read your history.
                              2. T
                                Truthteller
                                May 18, 2017 at 11:00 am
                                You need to gain knowledge about the w issue. If somebody occupies your home and kicks you out. What will you say??? Same thing happened there.....
                                Reply
                              3. V
                                Venkatarama Muthuswami
                                May 18, 2017 at 6:32 am
                                So long as Hamas and Fatah groups cannot see them united representing Palastaine people as a w , there is not going to be any hope. Unfortunately, the history tells us that the Islamic DNA survives only by death and destruction, mutual respect even within the Muslim sects is not possible.
                                Reply
                                1. P
                                  Pinna
                                  May 18, 2017 at 6:03 am
                                  It would be foolhardy to have good relations with a nondescript country like Palestine at the cost of our trusted brother Israel. Israel may not react immediately, but may keep our reaction in mind. Have we forgotten the countries like, Turkey, New Zealand and others who voted against us in the crucial NSG meet On papers and prin lly our action may sound praiseworthy, but country comes first. In order to become a Saint Modi is attempting a harakiri. Pur think tank should reconsider this view point and think harder.
                                  Reply
                                  1. R
                                    rddy
                                    May 18, 2017 at 6:55 am
                                    well said
                                    Reply
                                    1. T
                                      Truthteller
                                      May 18, 2017 at 11:02 am
                                      Nondescript !!! Wonder your wisdom and knowledge. Palestine is indeed one of the oldest civilizations. Birthplace of Jesus, whom Muslims also revere in high esteem
                                      Reply
                                    2. D
                                      Dhingra
                                      May 18, 2017 at 5:11 am
                                      India is a great power not due to Modi. He does not even know who Chandragupta Maurya was. We support him as he is elected helped by Congress as they became very corrupt. Modi has still not been able to fire AGNI-6 nor launch our second nuclear submarine the designs of which the Soviet Union supplied us during the period of Rajiv hi, These have been upgraded by our Russian friends now. Modi has inherited a powerful India my hope is he keeps his mouth shut and lets the brilliant elements in the adminstration run the show. Nothing wrong in building bridges with Israel though the latter is a lap-dog of the USA.
                                      Reply
                                      1. G
                                        Gopal Sriniwasan
                                        May 19, 2017 at 11:28 pm
                                        Mody has realised India's POWER and with his oratorial style has conve to the domestic and international audience.What did DR, Maunmohan do except move around with a begging bowl despite greatness thrust on him
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          Mahima
                                          May 20, 2017 at 9:51 pm
                                          But these Palestinians are not the Palestinians mentioned in the Bible. These are Arabs who settled in Holy land after Muslim conquest. Where as these Jews were original inhabitants of Palestine who were driven out of their country to various places of the earth. So you are wrong my friend.
                                          Reply
                                          1. Z
                                            zafar
                                            May 22, 2017 at 1:43 pm
                                            Dear Mahima, If i kick you out of your house at gunpoint saying that your house belongs to me since my ancestors used to live here 1000 years back.Will it make sence to you?If you protest by hurlin stones at me,I will call you a terrorist. If you hate muslims just say i hate muslims and cannot coexist you can
                                        2. A
                                          Aum shanti
                                          May 18, 2017 at 3:53 am
                                          Farsighted MODIJI thank God India elected MODIJI the best p m ever
                                          Reply
                                          1. T
                                            Tushar
                                            May 18, 2017 at 10:58 am
                                            50/paisa chamcha ...
                                            Reply
                                          2. G
                                            Ghamandi Singh
                                            May 18, 2017 at 3:11 am
                                            The Jewish lobby in the USA is powerful, while Israel a tiny state is dependent for survival on the USA. Indeed the Jews are very close to China. Let us work for peace in this region and support fully the creation of a Palestinianstate which is overdue. Going to Israel does not mean following the Jews which will be disaster.
                                            Reply
                                            1. C
                                              CRPD
                                              May 18, 2017 at 7:15 pm
                                              israel had never depended on any nation, and will not depend in future as well.
                                              Reply
                                            2. D
                                              David
                                              May 18, 2017 at 1:30 am
                                              Lets make friends with Israel but not get awed by them. The Jews of US have been hostile to India from Kissinger, Madam Albright to Stephen Cohen. They support China. They vehemently argued for India to roll back its nuke program. This visit is a big boost for Israel and hope India gets solid returns. Or its not worth it.
                                              Reply
                                              1. V
                                                Varun
                                                May 18, 2017 at 12:46 am
                                                Not bad. Both the Jews and Arabs are Semites children of Ibrahim (Abraham). Peace is important in the spirit of the Mahatma hi. We need to see a sovereign Palestinian state as well. But Modi an Aryan must not be seeduced by the Jews since to use him they are flattering him and the Jewish media is even lightening the pictures of Modi. They darken of those people they do not like, like those of Nehru, Indira hi, Rajiv hi, Shastriji, etc. In fact Seshan and the Jain Commission suggest that Mossad may have had a hand in Rajiv's asination. With Rajiv out of the way the Jewish Lobby thinks they can have their way in India. Not really.
                                                Reply
                                                1. B
                                                  Baldevf
                                                  May 18, 2017 at 2:45 am
                                                  You are totally correct. The Jews hate India since they could not control her due to non-alignment. Bhabhani Sengupota the servant of Stephen Philip Cohen wrote a letter in NYT after the 1974 nuclear demonstration by India requesting the USA to act. Cohen today is a friend of Modi but the former wanted to terminate India's nuclear, space and missile programs. The Jews can switch sides any time. Moreover, the Jews are pushing veg food and cir cision (cir cision is an abuse among Aryan nations since it is a Semitic tradition and cruel) in India, while many Indians love meat particularly pork. India is Mahatma hi's land and the people largely will sytsay secular thus the Jews can not use us. We have nothing particularly against anyone including Jews but most Indians would love to see a Palestinian state.
                                                  Reply
                                                2. Load More Comments