Gaza crisis: Modi govt's UNHRC vote against Israel must be lauded

It is strange to see many prominent pro-BJP journalists and commentators criticising the Narendra Modi government for having taken a strong stand against Israel by voting in support of a UN resolution to launch a probe into the Israeli offensive on Gaza. They are actually missing the woods for the trees.

India has condemned Israel for "disproportionate use of force" and called for an international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law.

 Gaza crisis: Modi govts UNHRC vote against Israel must be lauded

Representational image. AFP

Notably India joined the other BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) in voting against Israel in the 46-member human rights council. It is to be noted that all BRICS countries voted in favour of the Resolution (other four were even co-signatories for convening Special Session of IHC but India refrained). A total of 17 countries, including all European nations, abstained while the United States was the only country to vote against the resolution.

It is an extremely bold decision of the Modi government which demonstrates that it is not running its foreign policy from any communal angle.

Instead of being complimented for this bold step, the nay-sayers are criticising the move for a host of reasons, some of which are being summarized below.

1. India should not have voted against Israel because Israel is a strategic partner who has been helping India in the fields of security, defence, intelligence and counter-terrorism.

2. Israel votes for India on the Kashmir issue while India’s vote against Israel is essentially a vote for Hamas.

3. Hamas, in turn, is supporting Kashmir terrorists while Israel is helping India to fight Kashmir terrorists.

4. India should not have voted for this resolution which was initiated by Pakistan. By doing so, India has in a way played itself in the hands of Pakistan.

5. The Modi government has voted against Israel at the UN but at home blocked a resolution against Israel in parliament just two days ago.

6. India need not have voted on the resolution in the first place when the ‘abstain’ option was available.

Now let me rebut each of these points one-by-one, though I am not a Modi supporter and have often criticised many of his actions and utterances.

First of all, India’s vote against Israel is a continuation of its foreign policy with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict ever since the prime ministership of PV Narasimha Rao. Since Rao, every Prime Minister and every government at the Centre has voted against Israel in various international fora and the Modi government has acted no differently.

On the contrary, it is all the more creditable for the Modi government to do so, given his image of being a hardcore Hindutva ideologue. Modi has dared to take a bold decision even at the risk of alienating a large section of Hindus.

Israel is a virtual pariah state, demonstrated by the fact that only one nation (the US) has voted for it and even its staunch friends like European nations left it in the lurch by abstaining from voting.

India has voted against Israel scores of times at multiple international platforms for decades just as Israel too has voted against India scores of times all these years. And yet, India and Israel have extremely close knit strategic ties. This is because every nation state runs its foreign policy to further its own interests.

Friendship with Israel does not mean that India can turn a blind eye to the blatant violation of international arms and use of excessive, disproportionate force by Israel.

Another pertinent fact to be kept in mind is that the resolution (which India voted for) also pointedly condemns the killing of two Israeli civilians. Here is the relevant paragraph of the resolution: "Condemns all violence against civilians wherever it occurs, including the killing of two Israeli civilians as a result of rocket fire, and urges all parties concerned to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law."

India has consistently voted in favour of all the resolutions on Palestine during the regular sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. In so far as Special Session on Occupied Palestinian Territory is concerned, there have been five Special Sessions and India voted in favour of all the resolutions on these occasions.

In addition, India has made a number of statements on the issue of Palestine and has also joined statements with IBSA and BRICS partners. India’s commitment to support the Palestinian cause has therefore been categorical. It is reflected in India’s support for more than 100 resolutions in the UNGA over the last 50 years despite numerous changes in governments.

India has a strong and vibrant relationship with Middle East countries, most of which are anti-Israel for obvious reasons. India has a huge dependence on these Islamic nations for oil imports. And yet India has made this bold move mindful of the fact that many of these countries routinely pass anti-India resolutions on the Kashmir issue.

Change in approach in a multilateral format was neither warranted nor would it serve India’s interests as it would attract immediate adverse attention and with no benefit to anyone or any impact on the outcome.

The Indian move is an example of finely balanced diplomacy in the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is what Sushma Swaraj told parliament earlier this week when she opposed an anti-Israel resolution in parliament but made it clear that India policy towards the Palestine issue remains unchanged.

The point that India should not have voted for this resolution as it was initiated by Pakistan is steeped in ignorance. In international diplomacy, one does not see who is moving a resolution but the resolution itself. There have been hundreds of occasions when India has supported a Pakistan-initiated resolution and vice-versa.

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Updated Date: Jul 25, 2014 11:03:26 IST