India’s voice on the Palestine question: A timeline

In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, and after Arab countries had also recognised Israel, India established full diplomatic relations with Israel

India's then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru meets Palestinian leaders in Gaza, 1960 (photo: National Herald archives)
India's then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru meets Palestinian leaders in Gaza, 1960 (photo: National Herald archives)
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Of the British government’s Balfour Declaration (1917), Jewish Hungarian-British author and journalist Arthur Koestler wryly said: ‘One nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.’

India voted against the partition of Palestine and Israel’s admission to the UN in 1947.

Gandhi wrote in the weekly Harijan (1938): ‘Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English, or France to the French… my sympathies are with the Jews, who have been the untouchables of Christianity… German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history…(but) it is wrong and inhumane to impose the Jews on Arabs.’

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in 1938 in a letter to the editor of Time and Tide: ‘It has not been love of the Jews that has moved the British government but the desire to control an important route to India and the East… An independent Arab state might not be wholly amenable to control from Whitehall, and hence it was considered desirable to place the Jews in a key position. Situated as they were, the Jews had inevitably to rely on British protection and Palestine could thus indefinitely remain under British control… Palestine is and must remain fundamentally an Arab country.’

In 1950, India recognised Israel as a separate nation, after Turkey and Iran had done so. Israel was allowed to set up a consulate in Bombay.

Nehru visited Gaza in 1960 on his way back from London, but it was an unofficial visit

In 1975, India recognised PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and allowed it an independent office in New Delhi. India was the first non-Arab country to do so.

In 1977, the then external affairs minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declaimed: “We cannot accept the aggressor’s right to enjoy the fruits of aggression—the land of the Arabs must be vacated [by the Israelis].”

In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, and after Arab countries had also recognised Israel, India established full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

In 2000, as prime minister, Vajpayee sent L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh to Israel. The two countries set up a joint anti-terror commission.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli prime minister to visit India.

In 2017, Narendra Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel.

At the G20 summit in New Delhi (September 2023), India, along with the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the EU, announced the India–Middle East–Europe Economic Corridor through Israel.

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