UN, Arab diplomats hail India’s continued support for Palestine. But how sincere is PM Modi?

“If this government has made any changes to the longstanding policy on Palestine, then the onus lies with PM Modi to explain it to the Indian people,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said

NH Photo
NH Photo

Dhairya Maheshwari

The Narendra Modi government was on Wednesday praised by Arab and United Nations diplomats for continuing India's steadfast support to the Palestinian cause.

"I take this opportunity to thank the people, the government and the Prime Minister of Republic of India, who have remained steadfast with the Palestinian cause since its very inception," the Ambassador of the State of Palestine to India, Adnan Abu Alhaijaa, told an audience that had gathered to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People at New Delhi's Sapru House.

Alhaijaa said that the question of Palestine was one of the first issues to have been brought before the United Nations from the time of its foundation. "And yet it remains unanswered till this moment," he added.

Saud Mohammad Al-Sati, Saudi Arabia's envoy to India and head of Arab Ambassador's Council, said that India's support for Palestine had continued under the current government.

"India's traditional support for Palestine has continued and will hopefully continue in the days to come," Al-Sati said.

The Saudi envoy noted that all the Arab nations were of the view that ending the Israeli occupation and establishing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state was the only way to end the decades-long conflict.

"We believe that the Arab Peace Initiative has all the plans to bring about a lasting and just peace in the region," he said.

Yuri Afanasiev, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in India, complimented India for "vocally and stridently" being at the vanguard of values in the United Nations Charter.

Hoping that India would continue to play a constructive role in the region, he highlighted that Indian troops had participated in the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon when it was invaded by Israel in 1978.

"I recognise that a two-state solution is the only premise for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians," the UN representative said.

The keynote address at the event was delivered by India's former foreign secretary Ambassador Shashank. Citing Prime Minister Modi's statement this year, he said the current leadership remained committed to the Palestinian cause. Shashank said that political and educational cooperation between Palestine and India bore testament to India's continued commitment to Palestine.

"Apart from strong political support that India has been extending to the Palestinian cause, India has also been a useful development partner of Palestine. We committed a project assistance of $30 million and a (separate) budgetary assistance of $30 million to Palestine over the years," he said during his address.

A foreign policy reversal?

While foreign and Indian diplomats praised the India for expressing her steadfast support for an independent Palestine, PM Modi's statement on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People points towards a further shift in India's longstanding policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Modi's statement on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People this year misses mentioning East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Until last year, Indian Prime Ministers had been careful in mentioning the eastern part of the disputed city as Palestine's capital.

"... a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine living within secure and recognised borders, side by side and at peace with Israel, with East Jerusalem as its capital," Modi's statement read last year.

The omission of East Jerusalem from Modi's statement is yet another departure from India's established foreign policy norm on the Israel-Palestine conflict since PM Modi came to power in 2014.

The Indian leader had raised eyebrows domestically and internationally this summer after embarking on a standalone visit to Israel, skipping Palestine altogether. The visit was also the first by an Indian Prime Minister to the Jewish state since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1948.

The joint statement signed by Modi and Israel's Netanyahu during the visit didn't mention the two-state solution either, only referring to the Palestinian Peace Process instead.

Israel currently is pushing ahead with its plan to construct 1,800 settlements in East Jerusalem, announced in July this year.

US President Donald Trump has often been accused by the international community of being too soft on Israel's right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his government builds settler homes on the disputed territory.

The US Congress had in 1995 passed a legislation titled Jerusalem Embassy Act, which expressed Washington's committment to an undivided Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday advocated Palestinian people's right to self-determination as he sent out his greetings on the Palestinian solidarity day.

“It (a settlement process) should result in the end of the Israeli occupation of the Arab lands that began in 1967 and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem,” Putin said.

An official from Palestinian Embassy in New Delhi told National Herald that the State of Palestine had observed some changes in India’s stand since the election of Modi. The official, however, added that the current Indian government remained committed to a two-state solution and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said that the government must clear the air as to if India’s traditional policy towards Palestine had been diluted.

“The policy towards Palestine has been consistent across different Indian administrations. If this government has made any changes to the longstanding policy, then the onus lies with PM Modi to explain it to the Indian people,” Tewari told National Herald.

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Published: 30 Nov 2017, 9:04 AM