Edition 2: No. 42
Boycott Israel – an Indian imperative
Indiahas learned how to behave like some of the major actors on the world scene when it comes toPalestine.Indiahas adopted a two-faced and opportunistic posture.
International relations tend to be governed by national interests and the bigger, more powerful partner always manages to gain greater leverage than the weaker one. Asymmetry is the word that defines what Indian foreign policy pursues. With the big powers, we volunteer to get bullied. And with those who would need our support, we do the browbeating.
On the occasion of the visit of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Government of India announced a USD 10 million contribution to Palestine and pledged its support toPalestine’s bid for full and equal membership of the UN.
Three agreements, including one in the field of Information Technology, were also signed.
ManMohan Singh declared that “support for the Palestinian cause has been a cornerstone ofIndia’s foreign policy”. Singh reiterated India’s unchangeable support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to achieve a sovereign, independent, viable state of Palestine with East Jerusalemas its capital.
Those, however, were the easier ‘motherhood’ kind of statements of intent. It is one thing to claim credit for active role in supporting the efforts of the State of Palestine to secure full membership status at UNESCO. It is also as simple to pledge Indian support Palestine’s bid for full and equal membership of the UN.
What does such symbolism mean in the face of the US promise to veto any such attempt? What does the PM really mean when he calls for “an independent Palestine living within secure and recognised borders, side-by-side and at peace withIsrael”? When the PM “looks forward to early resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis leading to a comprehensive resolution between the two sides”, does he also take into account that the world is dealing with a conceited Israeli regime whose racist intentions will not allow them to concede territories that they have stripped the Palestinians off during the 1967 war. Does he accept the reality that Israelis not negotiating fairly? That it is imposing conditions and creating facts-on-the-ground that make peace virtually impossible? Singh’s assessment is, therefore, naïve. He remarks “We continue to make clear that we believe that the only realistic path for the Palestinians to achieve statehood is through direct negotiations.” Does he truly believe that one fine morning Netanyahu will wake up and tell his cabinet: “Guys, you know we forgot to finish the peace process and hands over Palestinian land to them. What does Singh have to say in the open to Obama? How will he mobilize BRICS and every other possible alliance to turn on the heat withIsrael?
India’s political gestures to Palestine smack of double standards. On one hand, what was once a virtual non-relationship withIsrael–because of the occupation and the unwillingness ofIsraelto do justice- has now turned into a cosy partnership in fields of science, technology, trade, and military cooperation. A minuscule of the profits and financially dealings withIsraelis whatPalestinehas now received. The USD 10 million package comes nowhere close to even whatIndiaoffered the EU as bail out assistance.
Israelis the only remaining colonial-apartheid state in the world. Over the last 45 years – since the occupation begun- it has snatched territory from the Palestinians in utter disregard for human rights, humanitarian standards, UN resolutions, and internationally accepted principles such as the Geneva Conventions. (See picture below)
India should, therefore, pursue its policy of solidarity with Palestine through financial aid and every other form of assistance in every possible field-science, technology, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, industrial development, educational scholarships, and various other fields. Our corporates must be encouraged to invest in Palestine rather than the current pattern of trading withIsrael.
India has developed firm relationships withIsraelin multiple spheres- notably in the military sector. Since 2000,India has acquired several high-tech systems from Israel, ranging from anti-missile defense systems and early-warning radars. Today, defense cooperation between Israel and India remains solid, with the arms trade soaring. The approximate total value of the weapons trade over the past decade is estimated at around $10 billion. By the end of 2006,Israel rose to become the second largest arms supplier toIndia, afte rRussia, with annual arms sales totaling approximately $1.5 billion. This figure is all the more significant considering that worldwide in 2006;Israel was reported to have sold a total of $4.2 billion worth of arms. Israeli defense firms showed a strong presence at the 2009 Aero India Exhibition. Several Israeli-manufactured weapons systems were on display, with many catching the attention of Indian defense planners.
New Delhi has increased its annual defense budget to $32 billion citing threats from its neighbours as the reason for this. Israeli defense firms are eyeing a portion of the multi-million dollar contracts inIndiathat will follow.
Besides, the 2008 Mumbai terror attack stirred a growing interest in Israeli counter terrorism techniques and led to the formation of a joint working group. Israel promptly offeredIndiahomeland security assistance and counter-terror know-how. The Maharashtra government gulped the offer with alacrity. There are innumerable questions over who actually launched the attack in Mumbai and whether or not Israel had a hand through MOSSAD. Mossad is known to routinely infiltrate even “friendly” intelligence agencies and sponsor attacks which give them avenues to obtain lucrative security contracts. Mossads dubious role in Mumbai, perhaps, explains why an Israeli firm cornered a huge portion of the contract for rebuilding The Taj Hotel in Mumbai? We can not forget that Tata – and indeed many of our corporates – are frequent visitors toIsraeland one can be sure that they are not on pilgrimages to Israel’s religious sites!
Despite,Israel’s credibility as a reliable arms supplier with limited political implications Indo -Israeli defense cooperation is likely to decline in the near future. India’s need for oil may stunt the rapidly growing military ties. This is the ray of hope we can hope to build on. It is built too on India’s opportunistic alliances- sometimes schizophrenic in character.
At one level,India’s hesitation over the Middle East is the result of an expected polarity between those who take the traditional pro-Arab position and those in favour of partnership withIsrael. There is also the other political tension between the need to calm the 160 million Muslims and a fascination with Israel’s methods, which some in New Delhi would like to try to link with claiming we have the ‘external threat’ of Pakistan.
Not to long ago,India took an extraordinary bash at an Israeli arms company. Israel’s Military Industries (IMI) had a $70-million guarantee confiscated by the New Delhi government and was banned from doing business in India for 10 years for allegedly attempting to bribe the director-general of India’s OFB-Ordinance Factory Board. It was the first time the Indian government has ever attempted to penalize a foreign company for breaching contractual anti-bribery provisions.
AsIndiaworks to find ways around the American-led new round of sanctions againstTehranaimed at halting the regime’s nuclear development program,New Delhiappears ready to sacrifice its close military liaison withIsraelin order to maintain its supply of oil fromIran.Indiaimports about 12 per cent of its oil needs fromIranat a cost of about $11 billion a year. There is also the prospect of a direct pipeline link across southernPakistantoIran’s massive Pars natural gas reserves.
Israelmade every effort to dissuadeNew Delhifrom making its potentially far-reaching gesture against their bilateral military and intelligence relationship. But oil is a greater need for now. For, after all, the merchants of armaments come a dime a dozen.
It is entirely possible that India’s apparent breach with Israel is a piece of performance art aimed at promoting confidence in Tehran, affirming New Delhi’s independence from Washington’s apron strings, and placating the pro-Palestinian left-wing parties in the Indian parliament on which the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh often depends for survival. There are many governments that find it politic to vilifyIsraelin public while happily doing business or fostering security links in private.Israelis used to dealing with such antics and is usually happy to go along with the charade.
The way forward forIndiais to return to its previous policy stances- one which demands that the following be pursued in line with UN resolutions and international law:
An end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in line with UN resolutions and a return to pre-1967 borders
- Removal of all illegal settlements
- The dismantling of the separation wall
- Resolving the settlement ofJerusalemas a shared capital betweenIsraelandPalestine
- Enforcing the Right to Return of refugees
- Freeing of political prisoners
- A just and equitable sharing of natural resources- water, in the main.
Until these conditions are fulfilled,India should suspend all forms of diplomatic ties withIsrael-a total boycott in military and economic cooperation and especially in the growing sports, academic and cultural arenas. Friends of Israel would suggest that this is a call to delegitimize Israel. Rather, it is a call to delegitimize the occupation which is ruthless and racist to the core.
India’s aid package has been accepted by a vulnerable Palestine eager to find support for its strangulated people. But aid alone is not what Palestine requires. It requires a just solution that offers its people freedom with justice and dignity, a country to call their own, security, and the option to chart their future consistent with the aspirations of the people. To this,India must stand unequivocally committed.