India-Palestine Relations: Recent Development Post Gaza War

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Introduction

India and Palestine have a history that begins with decolonization and the creation of sovereign nation-states. Early demonstrations of solidarity and support for the Palestinian cause originated from India’s own independence movement. This relationship has changed throughout time due to changes in world affairs, regional dynamics, and geopolitical situations. Examining historical occurrences, diplomatic interactions, commercial connections, and cross-cultural interactions is necessary to comprehend the development of India-Palestine relations since 1947.

In addition to political solidarity, India and Palestine have cultivated bilateral ties in diverse fields, including trade, education, healthcare, and technology. Economic cooperation between India and Palestine has grown steadily, with India providing development assistance and technical expertise to support Palestinian infrastructure projects and capacity-building initiatives. Educational and cultural exchanges have also flourished, fostering mutual understanding and people-to-people contacts between the two nations.


Historical Background:

India’s desire for self-determination and its own history of colonialism are major factors in its support for Palestine. In the years leading up to independence, the Indian National Congress declared its support for the Palestinian people’s fight against Zionist and British colonialism. Palestine found resonance in the words spoken by leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, who outlined India’s dedication to international solidarity and anti-colonialism. Even the current Indian government is in favour of peace and coexistence for both countries.

Post-Independence Diplomacy:

India was among the strong supporters of anti-colonial voices in the world and Indian leaders were historically openly talked about free Palestine, even Mahatma Gandhi opposed a Jewish nation-state in Palestine. He wrote in Harijan on 26 November 1938, “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English, or France to the French,”.

For India, the Palestine issue is about natural justice, not only Arab and Israeli issues. India is well-known around the world for these kinds of voices. It is evident from history that the Indian leadership was adamant about the Palestine issue and consistently stood behind the Palestinian people, independent of the large number of Arab nations, particularly those who are part of the NAM, such as Egypt and Nehru’s close buddy Nasir.

As a Muslim nation, Turkey recognised Israel in 1949. Egypt and Jordan, two Arab nations followed suit, recognising Israel and signing peace treaties in 1979 and 1980, respectively. However, on September 17, 1950, India recognised Israel, and under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, full diplomatic ties were established in 1992. However, India’s support for the Palestinian cause did not diminish as a result of its acceptance of Israel. India has consistently advocated for an equitable and comprehensive settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the rights of Palestinian refugees. India’s diplomatic relations with Palestine intensified after the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was founded in 1964 and an office was established in New Delhi in 1975.

An essential component of India’s foreign policy is the country’s support for the Palestinian cause. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was acknowledged as the only authorised representative of the Palestinian people by India in 1974, making it the first non-Arab state to do so. India was among the first nations to recognise the State of Palestine in 1988. India first established a Representative Office for Palestine in Gaza City in 1996. In 2003, it moved to Ramallah.

But a new shift of India’s foreign policy towards Palestine is looking blur, not so strong due to various factors, first, the economic and defence engagement with Israel increased in the last ten years since BJP came to power in 2014. Prime Minister Modi made history by being the first Indian PM to visit Israel on 4-6 July 2017. Apart from this, on February 10, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made history by becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Palestine to restore balance to bilateral relations.

Challenges and Opportunities:

Despite the historical bonds and shared aspirations, India-Palestine relations face numerous challenges, including regional conflicts, geopolitical rivalries, and global power dynamics. The unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to cast a shadow over the region, complicating efforts to deepen bilateral cooperation and realize the full potential of India-Palestine relations. Moreover, India’s evolving ties with Israel and other Middle Eastern countries pose both opportunities and dilemmas for its engagement with Palestine. Both countries have been working for peace and cooperation in the world in general and in the region particular.

Conflict of Israel-Palestine and Sudden Hamas Attack

The conflict between Israel and Palestine began as a result of Hamas’s military actions on the 7th of October 2023, which claimed twelve hundred Israeli lives. In retaliation, Israel started bombardment against Palestinians in Hamas Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in which more than 28 thousand civilians killed including mostly women and children so far and more than 50-80 thousand injured. Israel has severely devastated Gaza’s and West Bank infrastructure and cut off its food, water, and electrical supplies. For humanitarian and medical reasons, Hamas and Islamic Jihad also freed a few hostages, but the bombing went on. Due to the shelling, most of Gaza’s towns were completely destroyed. Israeli soldiers arrived in Gaza from many directions and immediately began attacking hospitals, schools, and even children’s hospitals and intensive care units.

Due to IDF sniper shooting and shelling, majority of hospitals destroyed badly like Al Shifa Hospital, Al-Amal Hospital of Khan Yunis and Al Quds Hospital, were also forced to close. In addition, hospitals are suffering from fuel scarcity and other necessary operations materials. Without anaesthesia, doctors are doing surgery on the patient. Many journalists, UN employees, and citizens were killed due to heavy bombardment and lack of medical support. Because of how terrible things are, Red Cross workers and some basic supplies have been deployed to Gaza. The notoriously violent Israeli Security Forces (IDF) are killing without hesitation, not just in Gaza but also in the Jenin camps of the West Bank. They uprooted the road and infrastructure badly and the whole world silently looked at all these pictures of dying children, old ladies and men mercilessly. To know the reason, Why Hamas attacked the Israeli military post and fired thousands of rockets at Israel is having historical happening in the region.  Firstly, it was a retaliation by Hamas, due to two decades long of Israeli incursions, siege, blocks and atrocities, against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank since the Israeli state came to power in 1948. Secondly, during the sidelined G20 summit in Delhi, there was a talk regarding an economic corridor through India, the US, EU, Saudi Arabia, and UAE to counter China’s BRI, which is isolating the Palestinian issue. Even many Middle Eastern countries were not happy with the way this project was discussed without touching their countries, Egypt, Iran and Turkey.

Netanyahu’s government policy also fueled the fire and became a factor in this war, their right-wing policies to create more settlements on the Palestinian land of Palestinian, daily atrocities in the West Bank around Masjid Al Aqsa and in other cities of the Palestinian were the factors behind this war. Since last several months when Netanyahu who during the Knesset vote of confidence got 63 in favour and 54 against out of 120 in the Knesset election took power once again in December 2002 after shaking hands with far-right and ultra-nationalist coalition partners. The two far-right leader’s religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotric and Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir are known as far-right leaders who openly supported Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in which 29 Palestinians were killed in 1994.

The US and its Western Allies, including the UK, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan, supported Israeli aggression and violence against the defenceless Palestinians, the UN appears unable to act against Israel. A UN resolution calling for a ceasefire was considered, but the United States and its Western Allies were against the proposal. While the West backs the Israeli bombing of defenceless Palestinian people, their Middle East allies, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, are simply talking about ending the Gaza War immediately and not doing anything about it. Some Arab and other Muslim nations sought to impose an oil embargo on Israel and its Western backer during the OIC summit in Riyadh on November 12, 2023, in response to Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, however, opposed this attempt to use oil as a weapon against Israel and its supporters. Why do Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE want to keep links with Israel, is it only for economic benefit? It demonstrates how the leaders of the Gulf, including Turkey, are preserving their regimes and providing coffins to the Palestinians without endorsing their ideologies. Those who suggested a boycott and were sent back to Israel included Algeria, Syria, and Iran. Western ambassadors were also turned down at the conference. These leaders, who have blatantly disregarded Palestinian concerns for many years, are in some ways also granting Israel the upper hand in resolving Palestinian matters first. Mahmood Abbas, the Palestinian leader, did not speak out much either. The Palestinian struggles suffered greatly as a result of the extreme rift that existed between Hamas and Fatah. Although Abbas does not speak up much for his own people, he is willing to give American Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken a hug, who is known to be Jewish. After giving hugs to Arab leaders and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he took two plane trips to the Middle East. However, the Jordanian monarch turned the US President away on his second visit to the area. These diplomatic sessions didn’t alter Israeli strategy since, despite killing an increasing number of people and succeeding in their goal of eliminating Hamas, the true objective is to drive out all Palestinians from their land.

It is crucial to address the fact that the Arab world is dreaming if it believes that Israel is just focusing on Hamas and Palestinians in the West Bank and would spare them. The goal of Israel and its Zionist leaders is to create Greater Israel by acquiring an increasing amount of territory. Thus, the $500 billion grandiose Saudi project at NEOM, which is currently under development, would also disappear; the Sinai Peninsula, including Sharam Al-Sheikh and Egyptian Sinai, will become part of Israel. The reason for this is that these Arab governments lack a long-term plan for safeguarding themselves against the Zionist state of Israel. Washington is not going to guarantee them that their throne will be safe for a long.

One thing that is very important to discuss here is that if the Arab World is thinking that Israel is only targeting Hamas and Palestinians in the West Bank and will spare them they are in a dream. Israel and its Zionist leaders are very clear about their agenda to acquire more and more land to establish Greater Israel. So the Saudi’s $500 billion ambitious project at NEOM which is under construction in full swing will also vanish, Egyptian Sinai and Sharam Al-Sheikh and the whole Sinai Peninsula will also be part of Israel’s territory. Why because these Arab states do not have a far-sighted vision for their security against the Zionist Israel state. Since Washington is closer to Tel-Aviv than it is to Cairo, America will not guarantee them the security of their monarchy, or military dictator and will back any Arab nation, even with NATO’s assistance.

Lastly, why are only Palestinians sacrificing their blood to rescue and defend Sharam Al Shareef, and why are others showing little interest? After all, Palestinians are not the caretakers of Sharam Al Shareef; it is the first Qibla for all Muslims. Only four hours of relaxation were offered as a tangible result of Turkey and Qatar’s negotiations with the US President and Secretary of State Blinken and other international leaders. This is a really strange form of diplomacy: Iran, the Houthi of Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon are facing each other, at least in northern Israel. As non-state actors, they are firing a lot of missiles and drones at Israel. The main point, though, is that these affluent Arab nations will destroy Israel either diplomatically or physically, just as they did on September 16–17, 1970, in Jordan, during the Black September. Over 20,000 Palestinians lost their lives at the hands of their fellow Muslims as the Pakistani military violently suppressed them following orders from Arab authorities. Since the commencement of the Afghan War in 1979 and the Iranian Revolution, Saudi Arabia has had a highly dubious foreign policy. They not only overthrew powerful Arab leaders like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi but also a great number of other leaders. These Arab regimes seldom deployed their advanced weaponry against adversaries such as Israel, but they readily employed it against their own citizens, including Kurdish, Iraqi, and Houthi populations. According to the recent report, Saudi Arabia’s defence expenditure increased by 5.7% in 2023 to $69.1 billion. Turkey does not support him; in 2023, it set aside around $16 billion for security and defence, and in 2024, it plans to add $40 billion to its defence budget. Official figures from the Israeli Ministries of Industry and Trade and Economics show that Israel imports $115 million worth of commodities from Egypt and exports $150 million worth. When they barely challenge Israel against the Palestinians, it may sometimes appear quite suspicious.  Turkey’s economic relations with Israel have expanded over the AKP’s two decades in power, but Ankara’s pro-Palestinian rhetoric has also become more strident and mixed with Islamist rhetoric. The value of their bilateral commerce increased from $1.4 billion in 2002 to $8.9 billion in 2022. Israel ranked as both the 10th greatest importer of Turkish goods and the 29th largest buyer of Turkish goods in the previous year.

India’s Response after Israel-Palestine War

India appealed to both sides to maintain peace and avoid civilian loss. India’s position was also very critical when Hamas attacked Israel, PM Modi talked to Netanyahu and tweeted “Deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour,”.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held a vote on a resolution on October 26, almost three weeks after Hamas’ terror strikes on Israel. The resolution called for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” in the hostilities, and it was supported by 120 member countries and opposed by 14. India was one of 45 nations that abstained; the opposition has criticised the government for this decision, with many referring to India’s vote as a “break from the past.” The UNGA resolution was rejected by Israel, which has been bombarding the Gaza Strip nonstop for the past month, trapping two million residents. Israel called the vote “despicable.”

To balance the diplomacy in the region, India supported the UN resolution that was adopted on 12 November 2023, which denounced settlement activity in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”

India has strongly condemned the terror attacks on Israel on 7 October 2023 and also the loss of civilian lives in the ongoing Israel–Hamas conflict. We remain concerned about the deteriorating security situation and have called for restraint, de-escalation and emphasized peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy. We welcome the humanitarian pauses and the release of hostages. The Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister have spoken to several leaders in the region and across the world including the President and Prime Minister of Israel and Palestinian President and also in multilateral fora such as G20, BRICS and Voice of Global South Summit and reiterated the above. India has provided 70 tons of humanitarian aid including 16.5 tons of medicine and medical supplies in 2 tranches to the people of Palestine on 22 October 2023 and 19 November 2023.

Conclusion:

The relationship between India and Palestine has been marked since 1947 and is deeply historical by mutual support, solidarity, and shared ideals that are based on shared historical legacies and struggles for freedom and self-determination. Both countries have maintained strong cooperation across political, economic, and cultural spheres despite the difficulties and complexities. The dynamics of relations between India and Palestine will continue to play a crucial role in defining both regional stability and international peace as India grows as a global power and the Palestinian people pursue their goal of statehood. Apart from this India also has good relations with Israel due to its economic, business and security concerns. India is now unmistakably siding with one side in the ongoing Gaza conflict. That is the side of Israel from which India currently purchases weapons valued at over $2 billion annually or more than 30% of Israel’s total armament exports. But India has its constraints and compulsions, despite all India and its people having sympathies for the Palestinian people from the inner heart.

India does not stop only saying in favour of Palestine in the UN, even in the upper house of the Indian Parliament, the issue of Palestine came up during a question-answer session, and the government made it quite apparent what it thought of Palestine and India’s attempts to defuse the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Recent Iran’s attack with 300 drone and missiles on Israel on 13 April changed the world rhetoric, which was retaliation of Israeli attack on Iranian embassy in Damascus on April 2, 2024. On the other hand, the apparent retaliation by Israel on April 19, five nights later, was masked by the fog of war. Only vague facts have surfaced from Iran, and hours after it started, there has been no official confirmation from Israel. Given the restricted scope of the strike, Iran might not feel obliged to retaliate again.

After 200 days, nothing has changed in the ground despite UN Resolution no 2728 on Ramzan cease fire, even the ICJ verdict was hardly stop Israeli approach towards Palestinians. The UN experts remarked that the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) historic decision offers the first real prospect for shielding civilians in Gaza from catastrophic humanitarian conditions, mass casualties, destruction, injuries, and irreversible trauma. “The verdict represents a critical turning point in the Palestinian people’s long-term quest for justice,” the experts declared. These all are the new development in the Middle East, apart from this the new latest Gaza mass graves sparks the new row of investigation of genocide.  Following the withdrawal of Israeli forces, around 300-400 bodies were recovered from two mass graves near Gaza hospitals; the European Union has supported a UN call for an impartial probe.

References:

  1. Ahmed, F. (2018). India’s Palestinian Policy: Time for a Reappraisal? Observer Research Foundation, URL: https://www.orfonline.org/tags/palestine
  • Roy, M. (2016). India-Palestine Relations: A Historical Analysis. Middle East Institute.
  • Vijayakumar, R. (2020). India and Palestine: A Relationship with a Purpose. The Diplomat.

Dr Syed Mohammad Raghib is a research officer at Indian Institute of Public Administration, he has a PhD on “Iran and the Palestine Question, 1979-2013, from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (India). The views are personal.

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