It was hailed as the reunion of friends when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came calling on a historic visit to Israel in July—the first ever by a sitting Indian head of government. Media pundits in both Israel and India talked of genuine bond of friendship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his visiting Indian counterpart. The visit was heralded as the beginning of a new era of trust and friendship between the two counties.
But the reality check came earlier this week, when the Indian government threw Israel under the bus at the United Nations by voting in favor of a resolution condemning the US decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State.
India’s anti-Israel vote came as a shock even to close observers of India-Israel relations. In the run up to the UN vote, India had repeatedly refused to condemn President Trump’s move on Jerusalem and reiterated its neutrality in face of Arab belligerence. India’s Foreign Ministry refused repeated demands made by Arab countries to “clarify its position on the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem.”
What finally made India go against Israel at the UN General Assembly is still very much a matter of speculation, but some new developments shed light on India’s actions. Modi government’s last minute decision to vote for the anti-Israel resolution, drafted by rogue states such as Yemen and Turkey, earned it praise and approval from the Muslim groups in the country.
Responding to a congratulatory message from a Muslim politician on Twitter, India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj appeared in an upbeat mood and urged Indian Muslims to vote for the ruling Hindu nationalist party. Muslims constitute roughly 15 percent of the Hindu-majority country’s population and are fiercely opposed to Prime Minister Modi’s right-wing party.
It would be worth mentioning that Minister Swaraj was widely tipped to lead her party in the 2014 general elections before the anti-establishment candidate Modi ‘crashed’ the party. In a conciliatory gesture Modi asked her to join her cabinet.
Leading Indian daily Times of India reported Minister Swaraj’s twitter conversation:
External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj created a flutter on Thursday when she asked All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) leader M Badruddin Ajmal to vote for the BJP after he thanked her for opposing the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Ajmal, a Lok Sabha MP, had reached out to Swaraj on Twitter with the message: “Thanks Government of India for voting in the UN against US decision of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
At this, Swaraj quipped: “Thank you Ajmal Sahib. Now you vote for us.”
Needless to say, Modi government’s decision angered many within its own right-wing support base. As one commentator noted, many “Modi fans on Twitter and other social media platforms were quick to target Government of India.”
Political insiders within the ruling BJP coalition slammed the UN vote as well. ‘India’s made a huge mistake in voting against US on Jerusalem,’ the prominent BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said. Times of India covered his statement:
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has again gone against the party line, this time saying India made “a huge mistake” voting in the UN against the US on the Jerusalem issue.
A large number of Indians on Twitter also seems to agree with Swamy, an unscientific perusal shows.
Earlier this month, the US officially declared the divided city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel.(…)
Swamy, a long-time supporter of Israel, said India voted against its national interest, because “Palestine has never supported India on Kashmir question”, while Israel “has stood with India always”.
India has made a huge mistake by not voting with US and Israel on US decision to choose West Jerusalem as location for its Embassy. At present UN holds holy city of Jews as partitioned. West Jerusalem is Israel’s. Hence Embassy can be there
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) December 22, 2017
“India’s UN vote is not the way to win friends,” wrote the leading conservative Indian magazine Swarajya. “India’s misstep at the United Nations might not attract an immediate and specific response, but it will cool enthusiasm for greater trust and trade in sensitive technology and practices.”
India voted Yes. Disappointing, but somewhat expected (in line with past policy + India making bid for UNSC).
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) December 22, 2017
India’s stance as the UN will certainly be on the top of the agenda when Prime Minister Netanyahu visits New Delhi.
The last Israeli Prime Minister to visit India was Ariel Sharon, who toured the country 14 years ago.
(India voted in favor, in case you’re wondering.)
— Raphael Ahren (@RaphaelAhren) December 21, 2017
Meanwhile, the popular support for Israel remains strong among Indians at home and in the diaspora. Grassroots campaigns, like the one below, will keep organizing and mobilizing in support of the Jewish State.
Where governments fail, people must rise up to lead the way. Time to stand with #Israel is NOW!
Support our petition urging Government of India to move our embassy to #Jerusalem.
Sign here: https://t.co/ajcHGkjX4O
— Indians for Israel (@Indians4Israel) December 23, 2017
Diplomatic pressure from Arab and Muslim countries, petty electoral considerations, nor India’s geopolitical ambitions explain why a country bearing the brunt of global Jihad would join the world’s biggest sponsors and instigators of Islamic terrorism to denounce a trusted ally.
Israel has been training Indian Special Forces for counter-terrorism operations and cooperating in the matters of homeland security and military defense.
In the long-term, Jerusalem will remain the capital of the Jewish State. No amount of UN-sponsored ‘condemnation’ from Islamic theocracies and third-world dictatorships is going to change that fact. India’s stance will, however, define the company the Hindu-majority nation wishes to keep and the future it wishes to build for its people.
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and it will continue to be so forever,” envoy to India, Ambassador Daniel Carmon tells Indian reporters. Watch:
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