16 The Milli Gazette, 16-30 June 2015 www.milligazette.com
by RANJAN SOLOMON
The Modi establishment has taken some exceptionally retrograde steps as far as India’s long standing position on the Question of Palestine is concerned in the last year. His visit to Israel later this year will certainly ruffle the well-cultivated stance that India has held on the ‘Question of Palestine’. The precise nature and scope of the visit has not been outlined. What it is bound to do is to confirm the fears that Palestinians have held for some time now- namely that India is slowly but surely moving from support to the liberation of the Palestinian people into tacit support for Israel. Or, perhaps, unlocked support to Israel. There are bound to be huge economic pacts signed that will benefit both countries when the PM visits Israel. India has very recently signed yet another deal. In the last decade alone, India has signed small and large deals on an almost annual basis with Israel. Zachary Keck, managing editor, The National Interest, an Israeli advocacy news outlet, posted an article, entitled, Watch Out, Pakistan: Israel to sell India Mobile Missiles (http://rehmat1.com/2015/05/24/india-signs-6-billion-arms-dealwith-israel/).
An ‘unidentified’ Indian army official has projected the purchase over $6 billion worth of the medium-range surfaceto-air missiles and related systems from Israel by the end of the deal. Despite these military tie-ups, Israel did not have any political clout to get India’s voting pattern in the United Nations. India firmly stood behind the Palestinian claim to freedom and an end to the occupation. All that will now change. Israel will gain influence, even legitimacy, in India’s foreign affairs policy making spheres. What used to be a confident pro-Palestine vote in the United Nations will now turn into an “abstain” or a vote for Israel. In current UN political parlance, an abstention is as good as a vote in favour of Israel.
The Prime Minister of India may even come out with more Israeli shekels in his pockets when he returns from Tel Aviv; but our political stock in Palestine will be down to zero. The region, as a whole, will view India’s actions as no-more-no-less, than a tame surrender to America’s browbeating. It will show India as a weakkneed nation that is sucking up to western powers in the hope that they will toss some crumbs from under their tables as investment in India. In addition, the Prime Minister’s visit will show up the government’s intent to indulge in political opportunism, and gaining one more friend in the fight against India’s Muslims, and weakening Pakistan.
Just like the PM’s visits to the 19 countries have yielded more by way of mere optics and very little by way of computable accomplishments, the visit to Israel will largely be a burden on the country’s exchequer.
Back to the question of Palestine and the specifics of the Prime Minister’s jaunt to the region! Narendra Modi is clearly not travelling to Israel as peacemaker. He does not have that stature although his self-image is that of a global statesman. The forecast is negative. Narendra Modi is off to Israel with a toxic mission – to become Israel’s cherished ally and to abandon India’s long time position on Palestinian freedom high and dry.
To be fair, it must be noted that the open doors to Israel are not being inaugurated by Modi himself. It all began in 1992 under PM Narasimha Rao when under a financial crisis; India was compelled to open extensive trade and diplomatic relations with Israel. Not completely against his wishes, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao swallowed the economic humble-pie, but accepted it within the framework of his own soft-Hindutva orientation. We had reached a political stage when Zionism was acceptable as long as it was done with subtlety. The brisk growth in trade ties did not emanate from sheer efficiency. It was nurture in what seemed political parity. India and Israel had each other’s shoulders to cry on over Islamic fundamentalism – India on the question of Pakistan; Israel on the question of Palestine. Two somewhat different questions in their foundation and formulation; nevertheless similar in terms because the enemy came from what seemed a common religious background.
Ariel Sharon arrived in India in 2003 on a trip ostensibly to ink agreements on fighting their common problem of terrorism that turned out to be a debacle. He hurried back to put the band-aid on several hundreds of Jewish people who had been blown up by a suicide bomber. Sharon returned to become even more brutal than he ever was. The “bulldozer” as he began to be called from then on, completed long stretches of the apartheid wall that divided West Bank territories and supposedly and superficially provided Israeli’s security. Sharon had the audacity to even ignore the verdict of the International Court of Justice which, in 2004, judged the wall to be illegal in the face of international law.
So, if there is anything to learn from Israel today, it is about illegalities that are sustained by brutalities – an illegal occupation, brutal suppression of dissent and any form of resistance, creation of check points that are an annoying inconvenience to Palestinians, stealth of lands for profit and housing for Jews who are housed in Palestinians lands as settlers, the nudging of Palestinians away from heritage areas and the conversion of them into Jewish properties, the infringement of Palestinian religious rights, the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of innocent people simply because they will not toe the government’s line on political questions, are not on the side of the government. This list of violations will ring a bell in many ears in India. They very things listed happen with some variation in the country. So Modi and Netanyahu will pretend they are sailing in the same political waters find themselves. Israel will wipe India’s crocodile tears with even more sophisticated armaments purportedly to neutralize Pakistan – a country they fear because of its stockpile of nuclear weapons and its alleged proximity to terror groups in the region.
Regardless of what the two leaders do when they meet, their success will be confined to television oriented handshakes, tough talk about ending terrorism, harassment, and lip service to peace. Indians must be steadfast in their support to Palestine regardless of whether the government betrays the Palestinians. Already, there are rumblings and pro-Palestine groups and right thinking people are planning protests against the trip. What must we demand?
» And end to the illegal occupation. (47 years) and returning sovereign land to Palestine
» An end to the economic blockade of Gaza
» The dismantling of settlements and stealth of Palestinian land
» Removal of check points and the free movement of Palestinian people in their own land
» Respecting the right to freedom of worship for Muslims and Christians
» Adherence to UN Resolution 181 which proposed that Jerusalem be established as a corpus separatum under an international regime to be administered by the United Nations
» Acknowledge the Right of refugees to Return to their land
If the Prime Minister crafts a deal outside this framework, it must be protested at the political level and on the streets of India. It is important that Narendra Modi even before he leaves the shores of India that in matters of foreign affairs, he is not negotiating to feed his own ideological preferences or those of the Hindutva forces he represents. Needless to say the Zionist-Hindutva narratives run along the same lines. They are underpinned by fascist leanings and Narendra Modi can only be expected to do what he knows best.
As Indian Prime Minister his task must be seen as acting in the interests of a just peace in between the Arabs and Jews. A deviation should be condemned and rejected. Civil society and progressive political forces must scrutinze carefully what he brings back and offer him a red card if he fails.
The author is Communications Consultant, Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum