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India's belated reaction on Gaza, a sign of inert foreign policy?

Nov 22, 2012

India's late reaction to the violence in Gaza, seems a repeat of what it did in Myanmar; symbolic of its flawed foreign policy which seems guided more by the market than by its own history.

In an oblique criticism of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, India yesterday said that the “disproportionate use of force” was unacceptable. “It is a very sad and tragic escalation of violence that cost the loss of some innocent lives particularly women and children,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told media persons.
In a very diplomatic manner, the Minister said India would re-confirm the support that Palestine deserves as an independent sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital and that the country was firm on that position.

While this may echo the opinions of the India’s founding leaders, the sad reality is that the Indian government has pursued a very different form of diplomacy – aiming to sit on the UN’s Security Council at the cost of being morally bereft and led by material gains. Sadly, for close to two decades, India's foreign policy has been guided by business and strategic interests at the cost of support to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote in the Harijan of 11 November 1938. “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 had said.

Gandhi reasoned thus: "Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract."

In the years to come, in one of its significant foreign policy decisions, India, under Jawaharlal Nehru, voted against Israel's admission in the United Nations in 1949. Of course, the hurly-burly of political dynamics and international relations for a poor country emerging out of colonial slavery led it to recognise Israel as a nation in 1950.

But India’s diplomatic conduct over the years has been different from its moral position. This year, India observes the twentieth year of diplomatic ties with Israel. Over the past two weeks, Israel has bombed the Gaza Strip. Israel says that there have been provocations for its conduct. Truth to be said, the bombings have resulted in innumerable deaths of civilians. Last week, newspapers carried the picture of two-year old Walid Abadleh, his body wrapped in a white cloth being taken to his final destination - a victim of Israeli air-raids. And India has taken two weeks to react, that too in a muted manner.

India is basking in the lights, having jointly issued with Israel, on November 5, a India-Israel commemorative postage stamp on the festivals of light - Deepavali and Hanukkah. So, obviously, the country of Gandhi or Nehru would not have had time to react to the deaths of Palestinian infants. It is not very different from India's lack of support to the Myanmar freedom movement. Aung San Suu Kyi spoke her heart out - of how the government of India let down the freedom movement in her country.

Is there a clarity on why India is willing to let go its leadership of the developing world? What is the method to this madness that began, in the first place, with leading a movement to dilute the Non-aligned Movement?

India is attracted by the global market-place in which Palestine or Myanmar have a small role. And though I do not buy in to some of the things the Dalai Lama says or does, something my guru in journalism, Devinder Sharma once mentioned to me, rings in my ears. When Sharma interviewed the Dalai Lama many over two decades ago, the latter had said, "If only Tibet had oil". Devinder Sharma's latest bolg has a mention of this:

It explains why India chooses to remain silent to the sufferings of people across the world. I may never understand the method to the madness.

But I would agree, there is a method to the insensitivity of the Indian government. At a time when our policies are guided by interests far-west of the Atlantic, this should be hardly surprising.

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