RANJAN SOLOMON | 14 FEBRUARY, 2018
The Prime Minister refrained from calling on Israel to ditch its apartheid-style policies.
Narendra Modi’s visit to Palestine was largely about optics and a sprinkling of charity contained in technology deals.
India boasts that it currently assists Palestine in training, technology, infrastructure development and budgetary support plus a tech park in Ramallah. The sum total of this aid is too meager to add up to reckonable political capital.
What Palestine may gain from the deal would amount to no more than collateral; nothing of substance. Palestinians are currently looking for freedom and justice, not some dubious opium-type deals to forget the occupation.
In all, the PM spent three hours in Palestine meeting along with President Abbas during which he performed some high profile, perfunctory functions including a visit to Yaser Arafat’s mausoleum. He is reported to have flown in from Amman in a helicopter with Israeli Air Force jets providing him security. If the intent was to prove he was not doing the usual Tel-Aviv-to-Ramallah routine, he spoiled it all by using Israel for safekeeping.
During their talks, President Abbas is said to have urged PM Modi to take the place of the US as mediator in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Not much came out in reports of how the Indian Prime Minister responded which may imply that the question was rather impromptu in nature and at best a half-hearted politico-diplomatic gesture, a kind of shot in the dark.
Given the growing disapproval of Indian-Israel ties beginning in 1992 under regime of Late P V Narasimha Rao, the Palestinians have developed a deep distrust for India’s once unstinting support to their cause. India’s upward ties with Israel have been factored in by the Palestinians.
PM Modi confined himself to tired rhetoric on the conflict. He reiterated support for a two-state solution, and peace without describing the nature of either. Calling for peace and stability through dialogue is extraneous at a time when the two-state demand has been all but officially abandoned and peace talks lie in cold-storage.
Moreover, PM Modi refrained from hard calls on Israel to ditch its apartheid-style policies. Nor did he condemn the political and military atrocities against the Palestinians by Israel. He sidestepped the question of Israel’s continuous land stealth and the building of new illegal settlements, linking of settlements, bypasses over Palestinian agricultural lands, the apartheid Wall and hindrance of free movement of peoples.
Gaza did not even figure in his vocabulary. He had no words of censure about Israel’s punitive measures against legitimate resistance. There was no disapproval of unlawful detention of women, children, and young men. And there was not a word about how Israel holds political figures as prisoners with no justifiable reason using laws that violate international standards.
In the last three years alone, India has gone overboard to develop a bonhomie tie-up with Israel. Massive deals in armaments, military hardware, technology, agriculture, and cultural-academic exchanges are but some of the areas that the BJP government has been aggressively pushing. India is now firmly in the grasp of the Israel-USA nexus and is incapable of even remote detachment. Narendra Modi recognised the red lines and did not even try to cross these.Israel would never stand for India dabbling with deals that surpass standard transactions in the sphere of more oil and other such trivial trade pacts.
In the final analysis, this trip by the Indian PM was a feeble cover up for all its failures to do what is just and right in the context of 50 years of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The PM will have to do a lot more to change perceptions about himself, his party, and his more multi-faceted and warm stay in Israel just a month ago. Modi and Netanyahu recently proclaimed the "dawn of a new era" in their relations after signing key deals in defense, agriculture and aviation sectors. India wanted Israeli defense companies to invest in India. Agreements were signed to cooperate in areas including cyber-defense, security and science. A 130-member business delegation had accompanied Netanyahu to India to show they meant business.
India now coalesces with Israel to fight the make-believe enemy Islamic terror! There are increasing comparisons being drawn between India’s political actions in Kashmir and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. The resemblance of tactics is increasingly bizarre.
The BJP’s experience of foreign affairs is rudimentary and not given to sound policy and practice. It has prejudices that predetermine what line of diplomacy it will adopt. With tight cooperation between Israel and India on security matters, trade in armament hardware, it is improper to even try to deceive the Palestinians into believing that India will switch sides. Palestinians know this only too well. This visit by PM Modi is a measly diplomatic gesture. It was mediocre tokenism and India cannot boast of any tangible outcomes. He may have simply confined his visit to UAE and Oman where there were more tangible products to boast of.
(Ranjan Solomon is an International activist and commentator on the Question of Palestine)