In what can be described as a recognition of India’s growing diplomatic clout with PM Modi at the helm of affairs, it has been reported that the United Nations is looking to rope in India for mediating the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In accordance with efforts to get New Delhi to play the role of a mediator in this decades old conflict, a delegation of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was on a two day visit to India.
In its official statement, the delegation has stated that it “intends to engage India, a country with good relations to both the State of Palestine and Israel, in looking for ways how it could play a more proactive role in the settling of the question of Palestine”.
The fact that India should be engaged for resolving the conflict is a testimony to New Delhi’s unique position which carefully balances between Israel and Palestine.
The conflict- one of the most violent and complex in the post- World War II era has been witnessing hostilities since 1948 amidst several failed attempts to establish peace.
Though the roots of the dispute go back into biblical times but from the present day perspective, the region came into spotlight owing to several Aliyahs (large scale movement of Jews) between 1882 and 1917 to this part of the world, which had officially come to be known as Palestine.
The British colonial power in the region had in 1917 declared the establishment in Palestine of a national home for Jews, who in turn, viewed the region as their traditional homeland. The support for the establishment of Jewish State became that much more vocal after the Holocaust in which six million Jews were massacred.
Fast forward to 1947, the UN voted to split the disputed territory into three different parts- one for Jews (Israel), one for Arabs and an international trusteeship in Jerusalem.
Arabs rejected the deal and argue that they were forced out by the Zionists, while Israel’s version claims that Arab leaders encouraged them to leave voluntarily.
After the 1948 war, Israel gained control on most part of the disputed territory except West Bank (then Jordan controlled) and the Gaza strip (then Egypt controlled). Thereafter, the six day long war in 1967 witnessed Israel taking control of both West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.
Today Hamas, a terrorist organisation runs Gaza and a more mainstream Fatah party runs the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. In 1993, there was a deal wherein Israel agreed to recognise the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the representative of Palestinians and the latter agreed to recognise the State of Israel. Subsequent hostilities however dampened all attempts to secure peace.
As far as India is concerned, ties with both Israel and Palestine deepened during PM Modi’s first tenure from 2014 to 2019. He visited Israel in 2017- first Indian PM to visit the country, which was received very well by the Israeli government. So much so that the Jewish nation named a fast-growing Israeli, Crysanthumun flower after Prime Minister Modi.
In 2018, Prime Minister Modi also became the first Indian PM to visit Palestine, where he was bestowed with the Grand Collar of Palestine- the highest civilian honour of Palestine.
Till PM Modi’s outreach to Israel, New Delhi’s foreign policy was traditionally against Israel. This is also the reason why despite recognising the State of Israel in 1950, diplomatic ties were formally established only in the year 1992.
While Israel recognised how the waves of antisemitism could never reach the Indian shores, and Jews never faced persecution of any kind while they were being systematically persecuted across several parts of the world, New Delhi maintained a safe distance from Tel Aviv owing to its ‘domestic compulsions’ and fears of antagonising the Arab world.
However, PM Modi has changed all that. After PM Modi’s Israel visit, India hosted the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu in a reciprocal visit in January 2018. Both the visits received wide coverage, got enthusiastically telecast and the two leaders shared great chemistry- a level of comfort and friendship not very common in foreign relations and formal protocols.
The two countries made breakthroughs across several sectors such as agriculture, innovation, technology, water, etc. Both the countries see each other as natural allies and relations have gone ahead from just co-operation in the Defence sector that used to dominate Indo-Israel ties at one point of time.
With Palestine too, PM Modi has fostered warm relations. Last year, India had contributed 5 million Dollars to the UN Palestine refugee agency. India has been extending aid to the region and supporting development for the Palestinian refugees. In the month of December last year, India donated solar powered lamps to elementary school children Palestine.
As part of the Representative Office of India's outreach and cooperation with the local Palestinian community. Representative of India Sunil Kumar visited the Ka’abneh Bedouin School in Jericho Governorate and presented solar-powered study lamps to the elementary school children pic.twitter.com/TWH5ebwbkp
— India in Palestine (@ROIRamallah) December 16, 2019
As far as ties with Palestine are concerned, India shares close relations ever since the Congress era which had a very pro Palestine line– a remnant of which we see in how India votes on Israel-Palestine conflicts in the United Nations.
Till date, New Delhi votes against Israel on related matters and at best abstains in certain situations. An exception was made only fairly recently in June last year when India voted in favour of Israel in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
However, in November India again voted in favour of Palestine’s right to self-determination at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee.
As such it is PM Modi’s unique and finely balanced approach of securing close ties with both the sides that places India in a position that no other country in the world can claim to enjoy. PM Modi has promoted peace without showing any bias, something that the world and the United Nations have recognised. This is what has led to the big diplomatic victory.