Asserting that India’s policy on Palestine issue remains unchanged, government on Monday refused to take sides over the Gaza conflict as it said Israel and Palestine should have peace talks and forestalled a resolution in Rajya Sabha which was demanded by the opposition.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the House should not be divided but send out a joint message that wherever there is violence, it is condemnable and both Israel and Palestine should accept Egypt’s offer of peace talks.
She was replying to a short-duration debate on Gaza situation during which opposition condemned the violence in Gaza, pressed for adoption of a resolution, demanded suspension of all military purchases from Israel and wanted India to raise the issue at the UN.
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Rejecting opposition demand for a resolution, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said the Rule 176 under which the discussion took place does not provide for a resolution or motion of any kind. Besides, he pointed out that the government was not agreeable to a resolution or motion of any kind and there was no consensus, because of which he could do nothing.
Oppn stalls the House
Almost the entire opposition, which had stalled the House last week by pressing for a discussion on the issue, was unhappy as none of the demands were met and staged a walkout.
BJD, however, did not join them.
Earlier, responding point-by-point to the issues raised by the opposition members during the debate, Swaraj asserted that the country’s policy on Palestine remains unchanged and attacked the opposition for casting aspersions on the Modi government.
“There is absolutely no change in India’s policy towards Palestine, which is that we fully support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel,” the Minister said and emphasised that this policy has been in vogue through various governments including those of Congress, BJP and coalition governments headed by Deve Gowda and I K Gujral.
She also rejected the demand by some opposition parties that India should stop purchase of military equipment from Israel.
Govt slammed over delay in debate
The House, which was paralysed over the issue last week, also saw demands from members for India raising its concern over the Israel attack on Gaza strip at the United Nations. Initiating a discussion on the ‘Unprecedented spurt in violence in Gaza and West Bank area of Palestine causing death of scores of civilians’, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad slammed the government over the delay in discussing the issue questioning whether it has made any change in the country’s foreign policy towards Palestine.
Accusing the government of acting as a “spectator” to the on-going “massacre” in Palestine, Azad said “I request the Indian government, the Opposition, the House and 124 crore people of the country to rise to the occassion on humanitarian grounds. A resolutiion should be passed… the use of force must stop…prevent further loss of life and property in Palestine.
“A united appeal must be made. Government must realise India’s stature and walk the talk. Entire House should condemn the attack and pass a resolution.”
Striking an allegory of the Mahabharata, Azad rued that powerful countries of the world are just witnessing the happenings in Gaza like ‘Dhritrashtra’, the blind king, while a war is going on for last 15 days in which innocent women and children are being killed.
Noting that India’s policy has always been to support the Palestine cause, he said at a time when the country is emerging as a democratic and economic power in the world, “India is sitting as mere spectator and it took us seven days to think whether we should even discuss it or not.”
CPI-M demands suspension of military purchase from Israel
Condemnding the “genocide” in Palestine by Israeli forces, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) demanded “immediate suspension of all military purchases from Israel”.
Noting that Israel is the biggest supplier of arms and ammunition to India, Yechury said the profit earned from it is being spent by Israel in carrying out such “genocides”.
Wondering how can people say that those associated with Hamas are terrorist, he said they have been democratically elected by Palestinians, adding “I may have disagreements with the BJP but they are democratically elected”.
The member said India cannot be a silent spectator and a resolution should be brought in the House to condemn it.
UN Security Council has condemned it and US Secretary General has termed it atrocious, he said.
“Palestinians are denied their legitimate right to homeland…Until that is returned..India should suspend all military purchases…cripple them,” he said saying even Prime Minister Narendra Modi was signatory to BRICS resolution.
Ahmed Hassan (Trinamool Congress) said the government should raise the issue at the United Nations as the two-nation theory in case of Israel and Palestine is not being recognised.
‘No need to go to the root of problem’
Anil Madhav Dave (BJP) said there is a need to go to the root of the problem and a solution will come only when the problem is diagnosed properly.
He said similar situations prevail in other parts of the world, adding India should not tilt itself to any one side and play a “neutral” role.
Opposition members reacted strongly to Dave’s remarks and asked him to confine himself to the subject of discussion when the BJP leader talked about armed youths from Britain, Australia and India leaving their countries and suggested that youths will have to be told that they cannot get the heaven (Jannat) with the help of guns.
V Maitreyan (AIADMK) said while his party strongly condemns the killing of innocent civilians and he is ready to support the demand for a resolution on the killings in Gaza, a similar resolution condemning the violence against Sri Lankan Tamils should also be brought.
He said the UPA government had not passed any condolence resolution on the “killing of innocent Tamilians” in Sri Lanka in the last five years.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) supported Azad’s argument that India has its economic interests in West Asia and said a discussion on the issue should not have been delayed.
Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said India cannot afford to be neutral when severe atrocities were being committed on Palestinians by Israel.
“India is non-aligned but wherever there is injustice, it has to intervene.”
Brajesh Pathak (BSP) said all efforts should be taken to stop the violence in Gaza.
The decision to hold a short duration discussion on the issue for one-and-a-half-hour was later extended to two-and-a-half-hour with the consent of members from both sides in the House.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Deputy Chairman P J Kurien that she has no problem with it and time should be extended if members want to speak.
Her remarks came soon after another Union Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, responding to Opposition members’ demand for time extension, said the time decided at the meeting should be adhered to.
Veteran lawyer and expelled BJP member Ram Jethmalani wanted to know from the Chair how much time an expelled member of BJP can be given.
He later left the House saying “it is not worthwhile” and he will better write whatever he has to say in a paper.