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Palestine envoy shares dais with Hafiz Saeed: Two-timing India richly deserves the resounding slap

The sight of Palestine's ambassador to Pakistan Walid Abu Ali schmoozing on an open stage with Mumbai terror attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed is a slap that we richly deserve. The reason is simple. Far from being an "autonomous" or a "doctrinaire" approach, our policymaking —under Narendra Modi — has so far been a mixed bag of contradictory impulses, bogus idealism and sheer adventurism. A country that fails to moor its foreign policy on the bedrock of self-interest or doesn't know where its interests lie, runs the risk of being taken for granted.

For India, the Palestinian slap is particularly resounding because just over a week ago we betrayed our strategic partners US and natural partners Israel to vote in favour of a UN resolution criticising Donald Trump's move to recognize Jerusalem as the Israel capital. We could have, at the very least, abstained. Even Bhutan did.

Thereafter, we had the gall to explain the foreign policy blunder as "independent and consistent… shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country", as if rank stupidity could be justified by vacuous moral posturing.

India's vote at the UN wasn't an instance of multilateralism or upholding of any Monroe Doctrine. It was an example of nauseating moral strutting. We received our comeuppance when Palestine's ambassador to Pakistan found no compunctions in openly courting jihadi mullahs whose very existence depends on relentless antagonism towards the United States and India.

A flag of Palestine. Reuters

A flag of Palestine. Reuters

Abu Ali is no Alice who wondered wide-eyed without malice into a Difa-e-Pakistan rally at Liaqat Bagh on Friday. He must have been aware that the so-called 'Council' is a coalition of over 40 Islamist extremist groups, and he knew well enough that the rally — organised by Saeed, a UN-designated global terrorist — wouldn't be a genteel occasion where foreign policy is discussed over swishing of silk ties and single malts.

When the Palestinian envoy attended the public meeting where a band of rogue jihadists were busy raving and ranting against 'Zionist forces' and vowing the destruction of India, he was making a statement on where his own country's interests lie. He was even quoted as saying that "with Pakistan's tremendous support to Palestine cause, we do not feel alone", at the meeting where a "countrywide movement" was reportedly launched for "liberation of Kashmir and Palestine."

Abu Ali's action may well be interpreted as hostile by India but he was being consistent to Palestine's foreign policy. For all of India's historical commitment towards the "Palestinian cause", Palestine has on various occasions voted against India at the UN on Kashmir and backed sundry resolutions at OIC that favoured Pakistan's position on Kashmir. The Palestine Authority very well recognises where its interests lie, unlike vainglorious India that manages to bring idealism in every foreign policy decision and invite little else than scorn and ridicule. The Nehruvian ghost still stalks South Block.

We should actually be thankful to the Palestinian envoy. By choosing to appear alongside the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks architect, he has brutally exposed Modi. It is now proved that the prime minister's foreign policy is based not on any doctrinal approach or even a rational effort to protect the country's interests in a restive geopolitical environment, but on moonstruck activism where world tours are conflated with policymaking.

As Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, writes succinctly in Livemint, "Modi is increasingly trapped in a bureaucratic echo chamber of his own creation. He conflates activity with achievement and has been convinced that foreign policy begins and ends with state visits that leave him none the wiser (or indeed curious) about the politics of the target state.

India's reaction to the Palestine envoy's dalliance with Saeed is thoroughly indicative of the reactionary approach that has become the hallmark of this administration. We show misplaced magnanimity in issuing medical visas to Pakistan nationals and demand equal treatment from a recalcitrant nation. When our expectations are not met, and our citizens are treated with disdain and disrespect, we find vicarious pleasure in playing the victim card and shedding copious tears before the world.
The Ministry of External Affairs, which had to source its information about the meeting in Rawalpindi through news reports instead of its intelligence network, reacted with fury, stating, "We have seen reports in this regard. We are taking up the matter strongly with the Palestinian Ambassador in New Delhi and with the Palestinian authorities".

As if India's righteous indignation or calls for sacking of the Palestinian envoy or the issuing of a 'strongly worded demarche' carry any meaning at all!

As critics have argued, India's fury would at least mean something if we shut down the Palestine embassy in Delhi and emulate the US in shifting our Israel embassy. That would be a statement of intent and an announcement that no country should have the audacity to take us for granted. However, there is virtually zero chance of such an occurrence. We shall instead continue to betray our friends who have helped us through the thick and thin.

When Benjamin Netanyahu told Modi in Tel Aviv that "the sky is not the limit for our relationship", the Indian prime minister perhaps interpreted the gesture as a one-sided show of fidelity. The Palestinian slap is richly deserved.

Updated Date: Dec 31, 2017 08:20 AM

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