While the world has taken note of ties between India and Israel, nations hostile to India are busy deciphering the statesmanship of the two leaders — , Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in striking delicate balance of power on Jerusalem.
Jerusalem has been a bone of contention between Palestine and Israel for long. Israeli claim that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel but the world refuse to accept the claim of Israel. The recent decision of the US President Donald Trump recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been rejected by the world leaders.
Jerusalem occupies a special place for the Jews. The Temple Mount is located in Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is holiest place for Jews. It is temple of Zoroastrianism.
The Christians claim that the tomb of Jesus Christ is in the Church of Spulchre also located in Jerusalem. The Muslims regard the Al-Aqsa mosque as the third holiest mosque in the world after Mecca and Medina of Saudi Arabia.
When the US President Donald Trump declared on December 6, 2017 that Washington recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the world leaders denounced the decision. India did not comment. But when it came to voting in the United Nations, India voted against the US decision and by that it voted against Israel. The western part of Jerusalem is under control of Israel where it has its government offices and secretariat. This vote against Israel might have come as a stumbling block in furtherance of India-Israel ties. But it is to the statesmanship of Benjamin Netanyahu who down played India’s stand on Jerusalem. When reporters asked the visiting Israeli Prime Minister in Delhi last week about India’s vote in the UN General Assembly against US decision on Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, “One vote does not make any difference”. Netanyahu went ahead to cement the ties between the two countries.
It was India’s conscious decision to vote against the US decision on Jerusalem. Diplomacy is not a policy that varies frequently. India has supported the cause of Palestine right from the beginning.
It is here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi added a new feather to his cap by making India’s stand on Palestine clear to the world and to Israel. Palestine controls the Eastern part of Jerusalem while Israel controls the Western part of the city.
Pursuing a policy that serves and suits interests of India, Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to undertake official visit to Palestine shortly.
One more example of India’s foreign policy came to light when New Delhi protested strongly to Palestine when its ambassador to Pakistan Walid Abu Ali was seen sharing platform with the dreaded terrorist Hafiz Sayeed, the mastermind of 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai. Palestine was compelled to recall its ambassador following protest by India.
I was indeed surprised to see reaction from the Congress which twitted on Modi hugging Netanyahu. It was not for once but when the two leaders met, they flung their arms and embraced each other before shaking hands. The warmth was there for all to see in the visuals.
This was first visit of any Israeli Prime Minister in 25 years since India officially established diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv. In this era of economic driven politics and diplomacy, both India and Israel realise the potential of enhanced trade between the two countries. Israel was disappointed when India scrapped the missile deal with Israel worth over $500 millions. Israel is trying to re-negotiate the deal with India.
“The Times of Israel report highlighted the dual nature of India-Israel ties. On one hand, Modi-Netanyahu bonhomie looks promising and on the other, India takes a stand against Israel in UNSC and scraps arms-deal. “While Netanyahu and Modi have shown off their close friendship via what some have termed the Indian prime minister’s “hugplomacy,” the countries’ ties have been hampered both by India’s continued trade with Iran and Delhi’s recent vote in the United Nations General Assembly condemning US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
View from Pakistan
While there has been no official reaction from Pakistan on Netanyahu visit to India, Pakistani commentators in general have criticised the visit and strengthening of ties between India and Israel as a threat to peace in the region. “A week of weapon deals”, reads a banner headline in The News, a widely circulated English language newspaper in Pakistan.
“Both right-wing governments in Tel Aviv and Delhi seem to be sharing notes on how to keep these restive populations in check,” the editorial said. Another newspaper described the friendship between Netanyahu and Modi as a “meeting of similar minds”.
Pakistan has not recognised Israel, and was one of the movers of the resolution in the United Nations against President Donald Trump’s decision to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem. But there have been some reports in the past of possible secret back-channel diplomatic contact between Islamabad and Tel Aviv.
(The Writer is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha)
R K SINHA