Indian - Israeli Ties Could Neutralize Delhi's Palestinian Policy

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Ethnic Group, Foreign Policy, India, Mahatma Gandhi, Palestine Channel: Opinion Views: 4182
4182

A seminar on "Palestine: 1967 and After" organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the mission of the League of Arab States (LAS) in New Delhi just recently held highlighted India's still unwavering historical support for the Palestinian people, but failed to address the potential political effects of the growing Indian Israeli ties on New Delhi's more than ten decade old policy on the Arab- Israeli conflict in Palestine. 

Only the criticism of those ties by the participating Indian intellectuals, university professors and journalists made up for ignoring the factor of the Indian- Israeli ties by the major speakers like the Indian Prime Minister's Special Envoy for West Asia and the Middle East Peace Process, Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, the Director General of the ICWA and the newly- appointed ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Talmiz Ahmad, and M.P. Sitaram Yechury as well as the Secretary General of the LAS, Amr Moussa, whose contribution was read by ambassador Ahmed Salem Saleh Al-Wahishi.

Similarly all attending Arab and non- Arab ambassadors and diplomats, except for the Palestinian ambassador Osama Mousa Al-Ali, also diplomatically avoided raising up the issue, which could not but affect positively or negatively India's role in any Arab- Israeli peace process, which was the main concern of all speakers.

Diplomats of the Palestinian embassy in the Indian capital proudly showed this writer a four- dumum plot of land in the diplomatic corps neighborhood of New Delhi donated by the Indian government as a "present from the Indian people to the Palestinian people" to build a complex for the embassy of the "state of Palestine."

It was part of a package of a $15 million grant donated to the Palestinian Authority during the visit of President Mahmoud Abbas to New Delhi in May 2005. $ 2.25 million of the grant was allocated for building the complex and the rest went to infrastructural projects in the Israeli- occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinian ambassador Al-Ali said. 

In addition to political and diplomatic support, $20 million volume of bilateral trade and several shipments of medical supplies for Palestinian hospitals, India was careful to cement her Palestinian ties culturally and had completed two- Indian aided projects in the Gaza Strip, namely the Jawaharlal Nehru library at Al-Azhar University and the Mahatma Gandhi library at the Palestine Technical College in Deir Al-Albalah; a third project, a center of Indian studies, is also being planned at Al-Quds University.

Historically India's Palestinian policy has been drawing on the ideological guidance set by the world's spiritual leader of non-violence and the father of Indian independence, the Mahatma Gandhi, who consistently rejected Zionism over a period of nearly twenty years despite unrelenting Zionist lobbying, because according to Paul Power: "First, he was sensitive about the ideas of Muslim Indians who were anti-Zionists because of their sympathy for Middle Eastern Arabs opposed to the Jewish National Home; second, he objected to any Zionist methods inconsistent with his way of non-violence; third, he found Zionism contrary to his pluralistic nationalism, which excludes the establishment of any State based solely or mainly on one religion; and fourth, he apparently believed it imprudent to complicate his relations with the British, who held the mandate in Palestine." (1)

Although his sympathies were all with the Jews, who as a people were subjected to inhuman treatment and persecution for a long time, Gandhi wrote, "My sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me... Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood?" 

"Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs.... Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home," he wrote in a widely circulated editorial in the Harijan of 11 November 1938, which was a major statement that has decided the Indian foreign policy on Palestine and the Jewish question to this day.

Accordingly, India was among 13 nations who voted against the UN General Assembly resolution 181 for the partition of Palestine in 1947. In the same year, as a member of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), India proposed a minority plan which called for the establishment of a federal Palestine with internal autonomy for the Jewish illegal immigrants. She was also among the first non-Arab nations to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974 and the first non-Arab country to recognize Palestine as an independent state in 1988; in 1996 India opened a diplomatic representative office with the autonomous Palestinian Authority.

Talmiz Ahmad's reference in his opening remarks of the New Delhi seminar to the "resurgence of imperialism" in West Asia would undoubtedly assure Arabs that India would continue Mahatma Gandhi's heritage of dealing with the Palestinian- Israeli conflict within the context of the international national liberation movements against colonialism, but the pragmatism which marked the Indian foreign policy in dealing with Israel, particularly since 1992, would potentially compromise this approach sooner or later. Arab and Palestinian strategists should not underestimate this possible strategist shift in the foreign policy of the world's largest democracy, which a CIA study in 2005 envisaged as the second rising world power after China during the next two decades.

New Delhi is very well aware of her rising international status and that's why she has been vying with Japan and Germany for a permanent seat at the Security Council of the United Nations. "The most important development of the 21st century will be the rise of Asia. India's independence from colonial rule and the gradual evolution of a strong, stable, dynamic and democratic India has also contributed to Asia's resurgence... Our Government has re-activated the Indian Council of World Affairs and has offered support to other think tanks to invest in the study of Asia, Africa and our neighborhood... We have imparted new energy to our "Look East Policy", launched in the early 1990s. This has contributed to a comprehensive re-engagement with Asia to our East," said the incumbent Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, when his book, "The New Asian Power Dynamic," was released recently.

An indicator of the new Indian strategic shift is the Indian focus on the Palestinian- Israeli peace process more than on the struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation, a development that was highlighted by the appointment of the veteran diplomat and former assistant to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, C. R. Gharekhan, as India's Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process.

Accelerated Pace of Ties with Israel

Since Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao decided in January 1992 to establish full and normal diplomatic relations with Israel, Indian diplomats felt it necessary to "brief" Arab ambassadors in the Indian capital at regular intervals of India's ties with Israel, but India is now Israel's second largest trading partner in Asia after Hong Kong and Israel is now India's second largest supplier of military equipment after Russia.

Official Israeli figures show that Israeli exports to India valued $1.270 billion in 2006 and imports $1.433 billion, to double the bilateral trade to more than tenfold since 1992. India's Ambassador to Israel, Arun Kumar Singh, said recently that Israeli investments in India top $1b. Agricultural, water and IT technologies in addition to fertilizers and diamonds are major mutual trade concerns. The State Bank of India (SBI) became in June the first foreign bank to open a branch in Israel's diamond exchange.

However both countries are careful to remain discreet about the defense component of their relations and trade. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Limited is looking for Indian partners to build two types of aircraft and jets in India and set up software and aeronautical engineering companies in Bangalore, according to The Hindu on July 2. The Times of India on June 14 reported that a top-level Israeli Army delegation, led by Israeli deputy chief of general staff Major-General Moshe Kaplinsky, was to visit Jammu & Kashmir after wide-ranging discussions with the top Indian military brass.

In August 1994, Israeli Defense Ministry's Director-General David Ivry visited New Delhi and Indian Defense Secretary T. K. Banerji visited Tel Aviv. In March the following year the Israeli Air Force chief visited India and his Indian counterpart was in Israel in July 1996, one month after a strategic visit by the leading defense scientist, Abdul Kalam. In April 1996 the first Indian defense attach, an air force officer, arrived in Israel. Prolonged cooperation between India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and its Israeli counterpart, the Mossad, is also reported; the RAW reportedly arranged in the late 1970s a visit by former Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan to India.

Defense also figured high on the agenda of visits by President Ezer Weizman in December 1996 and the then Foreign Minister (now President) Shimon Peres in May 1993. Comatose Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli prime minister to visit New Delhi in 2003. However, late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat used for decades to visit New Delhi on a two-hour notice.
Several factors contributed to the Indian pragmatic shift in foreign policy. Internally India in the early 1990s started her "look Asia policy" towards West and East Asia. Internationally the collapse of the former Soviet Union, which led to the emergence of the United States as the unipolar world power and globalization were the most prominent factors. Regionally the nuclear and technological race with China and Pakistan made New Delhi more responsive to more opening to the US, Israel and Japan. The Indian- Pakistani conflict was another regional factor. Except for the Baath-led Iraq and Syria, most conservative Arab governments were leaning towards Pakistan; the historical visit to New Delhi of the Saudi monarch King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in 2005 had however balanced their imbalanced policy.

Diplomats of the ruling Congress party like to blame the Israeli shift policy on the former ruling conservative Janata ("people's" in Hindi) party and the war with Pakistan in the Kargil district of Kashmir in 1999, when Israel reportedly promptly supplied the Indian army with much needed military equipment, including night vision devices, thus kicking off a growing defense cooperation ever since.

But in September 1950 Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1947-64), a founding father of the Congress, granted Israel de jure recognition. A few months later, Israel opened a trade office in Bombay which gradually became a consular mission, and the first Israeli consul took over in June 1953; in early 1952, Nehru expressed his willingness to establish diplomatic relations. Another Congress leader, Rajiv Gandhi (1984-89), initiated a few direct and indirect contacts with Israel. (2)

Arab 'Green Light'

Arab and Palestinian diplomacy's ambivalent refrain from publicly warning against the growing Indian- Israeli ties could be interpreted as a refrain from demanding from friendly countries what Palestinians and Arabs have "green-lighted" for themselves when they collectively chose the Arab Peace Initiative as their "strategic option" with Israel in an Arab summit meeting held in Beirut, Lebanon in 2002; non-Arab countries could not be more Arab and Palestinian than Arabs and Palestinians themselves. It is noteworthy that the Indian- Israeli relations accelerated pace in 1992, a year after the Arab- Israeli peace conference in Madrid, Spain.

However the presence of more than five million strong expatriate Indian labor force in Arab countries, three million of whom are to be found in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the more than $25 billion value of Arab- Indian trade, including 60 percent of Indian oil and gas imports worth $20 billion, are enough pragmatic reasons not to be politically compromised by the newly-found pragmatic approach of Indian foreign policy.

"When we recognized Israel and normalized relations with her we did that after taking the approval of the Palestinian leadership; we said, after you agree we'll recognize (Israel) ... the Palestinian leadership told us: There are signed accords between us (and Israel) and we are now talking to the Israelis; your establishing relations with Israel helps us," the Indian representative to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Zikrur Rahman told the London-based Al-Haqeq newspaper on May 12, 2007.

Zikrur Rahman is a grandson of the Indian Muslim Mujahed Muhammed Ali Al-Hindi who died in battle in defense of the Palestinian people against the British mandate-protected Zionist paratroops early in the twentieth century, before Israel was created. His burial place alongside the graves of other Arab and Palestinian prominent freedom fighters is still standing as a symbol of Indian solidarity and friendship in the backyard of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site in Jerusalem.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

Notes:
(1) Quoted by Professor A.K. Ramakrishnan, "Mahatma Gandhi Rejected Zionism", Released August 15, 2001, The Wisdom Fund, Website: http://www.twf.org.
(2) P.R. Kumaraswamy, "India and Israel Evolving Strategic Partnership," Begin- Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, September 1998.


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Ethnic Group, Foreign Policy, India, Mahatma Gandhi, Palestine  Channel: Opinion
Views: 4182

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Older Comments:
H.A. FROM YATHRIB said:
Here we go again! Grandpa Moonlight (aka Ramesh Chander) is mad as usual. Always on the edge and itchy.

This is what happens when you let freedom Fries and "civilized fluid", aka booze, convert you from Hinduism to atheism. Very sad transition/transformation.

I suggest he goes back to practicing Hinduism; he should go back to his roots. Or he should listen to OBL and embrace Islam since Grandpa Moolight is a hardcore American.

How can an atheist, esp. the world's #1 devout atheist (Grandpa Moonlight) be so attracted to a religious site? I am confused...

Should he be witch hunting?


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KRIS MACPHERSON FROM MALAYSIA said:
Assalamualaikum and greetings

In support of all my Muslim brothers and sisters, either in Palestine, Iraq, or elsewhere I say this once again, what we need is ourselves, our sense of Brotherhood and our sense of duty and obligation to the religion and faith that we hold so dear.

We don't need any so-called past pro Indian Palestinian policy or any busy body in the like Romesh to tell us on how we should handle our cause. Certainly, in using Romesh test, he said and put it all clearly, why don't we forget about Palestine since we have forgotten the fact about being expelled from Spain ? Well, why don't the Tamil fighters in Sri Lanka forget about their struggle too, since the Sri Lankan government is the true legitimate elected government ? That certainly gives him a taste of his own medicine.

So Muslims not only need to reunite but we need to turn back to the holy Quran and the Sunnah, and believe in the promise of ALLAH that those who holds steadfast to HIS guidance will be granted victory. This is a continous struggle Brothers and Sisters, the struggles of our past generations,our own struggle and cause and not those who are so willing to be self appointed busy bodies. Like Ireland, the Irish struggled for centuries against the British.

And we have a better footing, a firmer belief in our cause. Why do we need the rest of the world if we have ALLAH with us. And let me make a point here again, our numbers are growing fast each day, we must make sense out of the advantage that we have. It's a common sight to see empty churches and Europeans who deem themselves as atheist, thus we know that while others are dwindling we are increasing. We need to thrive on this increase.

Insya ALLAH.

Wassalam.
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ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
Note to Asif:

You write "We have not forgotten about Palestine - we cannot as our beloved mosque is there. Palestine is not Spain - other than ego bruising there is no real value in Spain.".

Surprise to me. To the whole world, the Palestinian issue is presented as a land issue, "Jews took over our land"; they kicked our people out of their villages, they are stateless refugees, etc. Which issue is it? Land or the Mosque or Both.

If it is just a mosque issue, then if Jews allow you to have the mosque (and its administration), will the muslim world have no quarell left with Israel?. Other than the mosque, probably other than ego-bruising, palestine has no real value?

As usual, muslims cannot present their case clearly; how do they expect the rest of the world support them.

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FAHAD F ANSARI FROM PAKISTAN said:
We Muslims need to recognise that Israel is a living breathing entity, and should develop good relations with her. Palestine is not a religious problem, it is just a political problem, just like Kashmir is a political problem. When India has developed good relations with Israel, the Muslim neighbour Pakistan should follow suit. Its about time there be an Israeli embassy in Pakistan. The Jews use their brains, while we Muslims use our bodies: that is why the Jews are successful, we Muslims are not. The age when physiques ruled the world is over, now brains and culture rule the world.
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KRIS MACPHERSON FROM MALAYSIA said:
Assalamualaikum and greeting.

Let's not be engrossed with the policy change of one country. India is a sovereign country, they decides on what foreign policy will be best for their interest.

Why should we Muslims be perturbed or felt affected by it. Even the previous policy of so-called prop Palestinian cause, how have those benefitted the Palestinians any way ? None.

We Muslims need to have the approach, let the Muslim world unite and continue to lend support to the Palestinian cause. We need to ensure that there is a continous democratic process in Palestine, and that process should be rspected regardless of who triumph in elections. And that this process must be respected by all. Of course there are other methods in the Palestinian cause, but i do not wish to mention them too much here.

We certainly don't need any " Indian pro Palestinian " policy. Or any one ( who ever the busy body may be ) from there to tell us on how we should handle our cause. We can live without them and without it and certainly we can.

Regards,
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ASIF ZAIDI FROM USA said:
Romesh:

We have not forgotten about Palestine - we cannot as our beloved mosque is there. Palestine is not Spain - other than ego bruising there is no real value in Spain.

The Palestine situation is a very humiliating/sobering experience for Muslims. That being said, the mistakes we did over the last 200/300 yrs are manifesting themselves in the world - lands occupied, Muslim women/men being raped etc... And these mistakes were made by us and by the choices we made - not by any other power.

The blame is entirely on us and until we learn to keep our house in order, no one will be interested in doing so.

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YOHAN DAHAL FROM BHUTAN said:
Romesh Chander, incitor!

Our muslim brothers are heroes. When they see that giving away what they have contributes to the cause of divine justice and righteousness, they give away and do not fret.

They will generously give Palestine to form small Israel that has no claim on the land beyond the Euphrates! Arabs will continue to have more than 95% of the oil rich Middle East.

Jews, Arabs and Christians have a common parental history and must live in peace side by side. There are problems only when one party trespass the bound that afflicts the other.
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AHMED ASGHER FROM BAHRAIN said:
The whole point is weather one supports injustice or just runs with the money trail regardless of injustices carried out. It is a well known fact that Israeli economy is built big time on production of WMD and as one Israeli said; wherever there is a big weapons deal you can bet Israel is there if you "scratch the surface". Knowing this why then the West can not accept arming Arabs, Palestinians and Iranians?? They seem to like WMD proliferation only when they do it. Their justification is that they use it responsibly whilst Iranians/Palestinians are terrorists (Tell that to victim's mothers in Falluja and Afghanistan) - notice the current case for selling billions of arms to Saudi, then giving Israel even bigger arms to counter-balance Saudi advantage and all the time creating phantom enemies (read Iran) to justify being merchants of doom.

check this link
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=38791
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ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
Note to Asif Zaidi:

Funny part of the whole situation is that rarely anymore anybody comments on articles on Palestinians published on iviews. Looks like muslims have little or no interest left in Palestinains and in their situation. I wonder why they expect non-muslims to support Palestinians when muslims themselves have lost interest in the it.

On a side note, I hope muslims have not forgotten that Muslims were forced out of Spain at the end of 15th Century, all of their mosques demolished and most of them then converted to churches.
Well, if muslims can forget their expulsion from Spain, why they cannot forget their expulsion for "Palestine"?
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ASIF ZAIDI FROM USA said:
Why shouldn't change its policy as it sees fit. India is a sovereign country - if at one time it supported Palestinian cause unreservedly it can certainly change its tune. This is not hypocrisy - its simple fact of life.
As for principles, the Arabs of today should look at themselves first before telling others to talk about principles and ethics.
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ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
Before 1967, India supported Palestinians unreservedly. However, after the 1967 war, India decided to take another look at its policy for support of Palestinians. The policy changed dramatically after Egypt signed peace treaty with Israel. So, India showed lukewarm support for Palestinians, but maintained friendly relations with Arab countries (after all, there are lot of Indians who work in the Middle East). This lukewarm support for Palestinians did not mean that India's relationships with Israel were very warm; they were just business like.

Current policy is to keep India out of Middle Eastern conflicts -- little or no support for Palestinians and little or no support for Israel; just do regular business and military sales with Israel. Any time Yassar Arafat visited, he was received with dignity; but that is all.

Forget about Gandhi; he could not even determine the policy which India had to adopt towards Pakistan and even UK.

Don't read too much into these seminars and statements of bureaucrats.
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