In what could be seen as a major policy shift of its Diplomacy, India has voted in favour of Israel in the UN General Assembly voting, aimed at according an observer status to ‘Shahed’ in UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Significantly, this is the first time when India has voted in favour of Israel when it comes to Israel-Palestine confrontation in UN, and the vote, categorically, went against Palestine, giving a blow to its ambitions of full-fledged membership in the United Nations. The latest move turns out to be a conspicuous diplomatic shift of India.
Shahed is a group which Palestine recognises as a Human Rights organisation, whereas Israel has tagged it as a Hezbollah linked terrorist group.
Over the past decades, India, by keeping all its good relations with Israel aside, has gone all out to, partially, support Palestine in the United Nations. India’s stand with Palestine was beyond a verbal one as it became one of the first countries in 1988 which recognized Palestine as a state. That followed India’s recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1974. Apparently, the sole reason behind India’s full-fledged and unconditional support to Palestine over the past decades was an economic one.
A large number of Indians are employed in separate gulf countries whereby India gets its bigger chunk of remittance (in billions) from the region, especially Saudi Arabia, a dominant player in the Gulf region. In addition, India also gets most of its crude oil needs fulfilled from the Middle-East. In this backdrop, flying in the face of Palestine and its overwhelming supporter, the Gulf region could have, undoubtedly, costed India an arm and a leg.
Now that, since the diplomatic tables are turning and the shrill rivalry between Israel and the leader of the Gulf region Saudi Arabia is melting steadily, let by the technological trade between the two regional powers, India, though gradually, is coming out of its diplomatic compulsion to support Palestine anyway. Iran as a common enemy also turns out to be a bete noire player in the region.
Despite the fact that Palestine has nothing to offer that India can benefit from and Israel has almost everything to help it grow tremendously faster, ranging from technology to intelligence, the prima facie cause of India kept supporting Palestine hitherto was to maintain its friendly relations with the Gulf countries.
Needless to say that Israel is endowed with impressive cutting-edge technology in the fields of agriculture, irrigation, water conservation, etc. apart from its immense intelligence network that India can unequivocally benefit from. In addition to trade aspects, it is worth mentioning that in India whenever the Bharatiya Janata Party comes to power, India sees its relations with Israel catapulted to new heights. During Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government, India witnessed a steep rise in India-Israel trade to $2.1 billion in 2004 from $675 million in 1998. And, after remaining passive during UPA years, the trade has doubled to $4.6 billion per annum over the past five years. However, it has an estimated potential of more than $10 billion if Israel-offered free trade agreement is signed by both countries.
Beyond trade and political establishments, another facet pushes India-Israel relations appears to be the growing sympathy and affection of Indians for Israel. Interestingly, the Foreign Ministry of Israel conducted a survey to figure out about the different countries having sympathy for Israel, only to see that 58 per cent of Indians have great sympathy for Israel.
Now that even as various outlooks from geopolitical to trade and from the political establishment to sentimental affections, India’s cordial relations with Israel has no wall in its way to hit. In this backdrop, India’s changing diplomacy in terms of Israel and Palestine is a welcome move by all means.