THE TIGHTROPE OF DIPLOMACY: INDIA- ISRAEL RELATIONS AND THE PALESTINIAN CONTEXT
At the outset of the rising tensions between Israel and Palestine last week, India had without second thoughts taken up sides with Israel. This rousing support found expression in social media with the hashtags #IndiaStandsWithIsrael, #IndiaIsraelUnited and many more such supportive messages. Beyond the often uninformed angle of bias and knee-jerk reactionary tendencies, it is important to understand the history of India and Israel relations and how this response came to be. While many of the general citizenry side with the cause of the free state of Palestine or some form of freedom to the Palestinian populous, a large chunk of the Indian population thinks otherwise.
It is well-known that the ruling party in India and the founding charters of Israel are based on the principles of nationalism and rousing fervour for the state. There is a sense of kindredness that is borne between India and Israel that sees themselves as isolated powers swarmed by enemies on all sides. This has resonated immensely with the general population of the country that finds itself relatable in this predicament. The likeness with India and Pakistan situation to that of Israel and its Muslim majority neighbours. This nationalistic motivation that has stemmed support in India is largely reactionary and often misinformed and this is no fault of theirs.
AN IMBALANCED HISTORY
Many of those who support the Israeli cause would be surprised to note that India was not always a fan of Israel and was one of the first non-Muslim members to vote against the creation of the British Mandate of Palestine in the UN. Even Mahatma Gandhi himself, though sympathetic to the post-Holocaust Jewish diaspora and their rights, felt the Palestinian population deserves their right to a free state. India had even gone as far as to vote against Israel's admission into the UN in 1949. The erstwhile foreign policy of India recognised the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the right to Palestinian sovereignty. Things changed over time with Israel building a working relationship with New Delhi and in many ways establishing a long-standing history of support.
SOCIAL MEDIA FIREFIGHT
If there is anything that one knows for sure it is the fact that social media, despite all its bounties, is an unreliable source of information. A general opinion is not evidence of a credible fact. The noise that is created in the media is largely based on people having a skewed opinion or a blemished opinion of foreign policy and India's stand-in diplomatic relations with both the Arab World as well as Israel. The Indian government has surely garnered a tilt towards Israel due to its 40-year successful diplomatic relations and their support in defence, agriculture, infrastructure, security and innovation. But at the same time, India has maintained the support for Palestine to be a non-member of the UN in 2014. The current government has however maintained a form of silence that in many ways has come to fan the idea of bias which may or may not be true. Few BJP leaders and many of the right-wing supporters have come so far as to openly support the Israeli cause but non from the upper echelons of power. In these circumstances, silence does come at a cost and the international community for most parts takes it seriously.
THE DIPLOMATIC BONHOMIE
Israel has been in good relations with India for a long time now and time has only strengthened the relations. It has brought in support for many of India's troubles and has come through grandly. Their support during the Indo-Sino War of 1962, the Indo-Pak Wars of 1965 and 1971 has brought indomitable goodwill within the Indian alliance. Israel is India's second-largest defence supplier and Israel's third-largest Asian trade partner. Israel has been a constant partner in training the Indian Police and the Border Defence Systems have the Israeli innovation to thank for. In the modern context, India and Israel teamed up to advance technologies for the rapid-testing systems for COVID-19 testing and tracing. These amicable relations along with the current government's eagerness to support the cause of the Tel Aviv regime has made it a difficult diplomatic tightrope that the Indian government must walk.
The intricacies of India-Israel diplomatic relations go beyond the regular understanding of the general populous. Many of the world's powers have kept a quiet face in terms of taking a stand. India's silence in many ways has led to open interpretations especially within the ranks of the party and many other supporters in the public who have taken to social media where credibility is blurred and ignorance reigns supreme. The lack of knowledge, misinformation and silence from the administration has had a compound impact on the people's idea of the situation. It is a humanitarian cause at this point rather than a diplomatic one and the recognition that the situation in Palestine is more than diplomatic manoeuvring is something the government must indulge in. Escalations might likely have irrevocable consequences, what remains of the West Bank and Gaza is to be seen. It is important to recognise and understand the human cost of diplomatic tug and pull and the sooner India and other power players recognise this, the better.