Monday, December 22, 2014

Daring Move

The Hindu reported today that the Narendra Modi government is looking at overturning India's historic support to Palestine at the UN, abstaining instead of actively supporting to it. This is in response to continuing complaints from Israel, an important ally that supplies India with much of its weapons, is irritated with Indian foreign policy, starting from Nehru, that treats the Jewish state as a mistress of sorts. If true, this is an excellent move that will allow India to harvest rich dividends.

There are two factors that are behind India's support to Palestine: an apparent moral obligation to the cause of a land that, like India, was partitioned by a foreign conqueror; and the need to appease the Muslim minority in India that feels a sort of brotherhood with them. On both these counts, the policy has hurt India greatly. For one, while Partition was a horrific moment for India, it does not have to leave us blinded to our own interests. As successors, our priority should be ensuring whatever territory we have left if strong and well-protected. As India's leading supplier of weapons, India has great use for Israel. Moreover, in terms of realpolitik, it gives India a good rapport with the US, whose support is absolutely necessary for India to meet its global ambitions, including the NSG and the UNSC. Although not the cornerstone, India's alliance with Israel (which is also the only democracy in the Middle East) is an important tool in India's diplomatic toolkit that deserves to be valued, not hidden from sight.

The second point has probably hurt India the most. India's Muslim minority, since Independence, has been viewed as a vote bank that can be swayed through emotions but divested of education, jobs and infrastructure. Indian Muslims have nothing to gain or lose from India's policy on Palestine, but they have been made into scapegoats for it by a political class that claims to be secular but is ruthlessly anti-Muslim in action. In supporting Palestine, India has gained nothing from Arab countries, which very much consider Kashmir Pakistani territory and sponsor terrorism that has killed thousands of Indians of all religions. By showing up Palestine as a cheap concession to India's Muslims, the so-called secular class has put a smokescreen behind what they have been unable to provide: jobs and education.

By changing its stance on Palestine, India stands to gain militarily through Israel, diplomatically through the US and domestically by allowing the government to focus on its premise of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas, instead of using cheap tactics to appease the Muslim minority to their detriment. 

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