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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement read out at the UN signals that India has not totally abandoned the aspirations of the people of Palestine

~By Seema Guha

India’s reiteration of its support for the creation of an independent state of Palestine to exist side by side with Israel, would have come as a surprise to those who believed that Delhi has shifted its historical support for their cause.

India made its position clear in a message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, read out on his behalf at the United Nations, ahead of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. “We hope for early realisation of a sovereign, independent, united and viable Palestine, co-existing peacefully with Israel,” Modi’s statement said.

Successive Indian governments had supported the 1947 UN Resolution which supports a two-state solution for the long standing Israel-Palestine dispute.

There is fresh global movement on getting the dialogue started between the two sides. US President Donald Trump is keen on resolving the issue during his term in office. Apart from US officials he has directed his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner and now an adviser to the President to try and break the deadlock. Behind the scene diplomacy is said to be on. This is why Modi’s statement includes the lines: “India hopes for early resumption of dialogue between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides to move towards finding a comprehensive negotiated resolution.”

Modi also mentioned Delhi’s involvement in development activities in Palestine: “India is an active development partner of Palestine, engaged in extending technical and financial assistance to improve the lives of the Palestinian people. We will continue to support the development and nation-building efforts of Palestine.”

The statement will have made the Palestinian leadership as well as the people happy. This is because in the last two decades India was perceived to be lukewarm to the Palestinian cause. Even the Congress party, which had been an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights during Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi’s term, was less vocal about its support.

The BJP, even when not in power had been an ardent advocate of Israel. But full diplomatic ties with Israel were carried out done under the Congress government of PV Narasimha Rao in 1992. Since then there have been no looking back. Relations with Israel had thrived both during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh era.

Narendra Modi was the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel earlier this year. He was given a red carpet welcome by Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu. For the first time, Delhi which had previously balanced all previous visits to Israel by dignitaries with a simultaneous trip to Ramallah – the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority, had a stand-alone visit to Tel Aviv.

However, despite the BJP’s strong stand on Israel, Narendra Modi took care not to turn his back to Palestine. President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, was in India on a four day visit before Modi’s trip to Israel in July.

India’s balancing act with both Israel and Palestine is continuing, despite the BJP’s government’s admiration for Israel and desire to forge long lasting understanding with Tel Aviv.

Modi like PV Narasimha Rao before him is a pragmatic politician, who will not allow ideological considerations to come in the way of his diplomacy.

The BJP has always had a special affinity to Israel, because of its strong militarist approach to Palestine. Many in the RSS admire Israel’s anti-Muslim stand, considering that most Palestinians follow Islam. The RSS is known to be against Muslims.

Yet Modi has gone out of his way to befriend the Gulf nations. He has visited UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and built relations with the ruling families of each of these countries.  He is well aware that over seven million Indians live and work out of the region and send back remittances varying from $35 to $40 billion each year.

Modi’s statement read out at the UN signals that India’s support for Palestine may not be as strong as it was during the past, but it has not totally abandoned the aspirations of the people of Palestine.

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