Treading cautiously in the Israeli-Palestinian minefield

Treading cautiously in the Israeli-Palestinian minefield

While India has welcomed the normalisation of relations between the UAE and Israel, it must not lose sight of the Palestinian problem

The establishment of diplomatic ties between UAE and Israel is nothing short of an epoch shaping event. It has been welcomed around the world and India perceives in it a long stride towards de-hyphenating Israel-Palestinian problems and a way to peace in the turbulent Middle East. However, issues still remain in place and need to be urgently addressed.

Commitment to Palestine
India has historically supported the claims of the Palestinians and has time and again supported the protracted and archaic two-state solution. However, when Narendra Modi became prime minister, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict acquired a whole new dimension. External observers and hawkish foreign policy mandarins thought that India would under the new regime jettison the Palestinian mission in its ostensible pursuit of Hindutva politics which is “hostile” to Muslims. But to everybody’s amazement, India has managed to maintain a tightrope walk between the two sides to the extent that India has cultivated extremely cordial ties with the majority of the Muslim world, albeit barring a few.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said that “only India has the potential to solve the Israel-Palestinian deadlock”. It is therefore imperative that India remains committed to a Palestinian solution. The Abraham Accord has resulted in Israel temporarily suspending its annexation of the Palestinian territories of West Bank, so India must remain steadfast in its commitment to the two-state solution. India at the relevant international forums must call out Israel for its human rights violations and must call for amelioration of the plight of the Palestinians.

Bridging the gulf
The normalisation of Israeli-Emirati ties provides India the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the Judeo-Christian and the Islamic world which has seen acrimonious relationship throughout history and which has increased in the recent past thanks to Turkey’s decision to reconvert the famed Hagia Sophia to a mosque from an Orthodox Christian place of worship.
Samuel P Huntington in his magnum opus ‘Clash of Civilisations and Remaking of World Order’ had predicted that the 21st century would be shaped by ‘Islamic resurgence’, ‘western arrogance’, and ‘eastern revival’. It is time that India proves him wrong. The best way that India can do this is by taking the lead in propagating the good values of each religion and making sustained efforts to obliterate extremism in the name of religion. It must also spread the message of peace and inclusivity prevalent in Hinduism, although it may seem biased — India being a secular country, such use of religion may put in a tight spot. However, making an outreach to the countries which are hostile to it, Turkey and Malaysia for example, is necessary.
In this context, applying the idea of ‘non-alignment’ of former Indian premier Jawaharlal Nehru will serve India’s purpose in a new form and style as the world, as in the 1950s, is experiencing a ‘cold war’ albeit with new state and non-state actors.

Pressing concerns
However, before embarking on such an ambitious proposal, some reality check is necessary. First of all, India is in a tight spot. The Prime Minister’s ‘bhoomi pujan’ (groundbreaking ceremony) where he laid the foundation stone of the famed Ram Temple has made it clear that the historic secularist credentials of the state have eroded. Jawaharlal Nehru had refused to attend the ceremony of resuscitation of the Somnath Temple calling it a “danger to secularism”. The incumbent prime minister has undermined that tradition.
In the recent past, ever since the NDA government has come to power, there have been increasing cases of lynchings of innocent citizens belonging to the minority faith. This has put India in a weak position to pursue such an ambitious goal. The recent riots in Northeast Delhi in January this year, where the involvement of some leaders belonging to the ruling party has been highlighted, has also tarnished India’s image as a secular country. The riots had such an impact that the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked India to ensure the safety and security of citizens belonging to the Islamic faith.
The most pressing concern of all is the vitriolic commentaries made by some of the top leaders of the BJP including home minister Amit Shah where he referred to Bangladeshi people as ‘termites’. Such words threaten to destroy India’s credentials.

However, despite all the shortcomings India remains the one country in the world that can play a pivotal role in world affairs. The ruling regime needs to only mend its ways by giving up its fundamentalist agenda and follow the constitution in letter and spirit. Only then the government will be able to realise its cherished idea of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”.

The writer is a student of Political Science at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. The views expressed are the writer’s and not Kashmir Reader’s.

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