India’s refusal to criticize President Donald Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has angered Arab regimes, the Reuters news agency reported. Several Arab embassies have asked India to “clarify its position on the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem.” Dismissing Arab request, Indian Foreign Ministry said that it had “no plans for a further articulation on Jerusalem,” news reports confirm.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government refrained from joining France, Germany, the EU, and Arab countries in condemning President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. “India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent,” the Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country.”
That may not have been the resounding pro-Israel endorsement that many in Prime Minister Modi’s nationalist BJP-alliance would have expected, but refusing to join the Arab and European chorus against the U.S. President — given India’s half-a-century long history of toeing the Arab line in the Middle East conflict — comes as nothing short of a shock to the Palestinian leaders and their Arab patrons.
Under India’s previous Socialist governments, the Hindu-majority country’s support for the Arab-sponsored ‘Palestinian cause’ was so strong that the country was regarded as the “23rd Arab state” in diplomatic circles.
“Jerusalem is the capital of modern state of Israel and it will continue to be so forever,” Israel’s envoy to India, Ambassador Daniel Carmon told the newspaper Indian Express. “It was a fact stated by the President of the United States. It is a fact that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for five thousand years. It has been the capital of the modern state of Israel for seventy years. If you visit Jerusalem you will see what it means to have Jerusalem the capital of modern Israel,” he added.
The Reuters news agency reported Arab reaction to India’s diplomatic stance over Jerusalem:
Countries around the world, including U.S. allies Britain and France, criticized Trump’s decision, but India did not take sides.
Instead, the Indian foreign ministry in a brief statement, said India’s position was consistent and independent of any third party.
Last week, envoys from Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait based in New Delhi met Indian junior foreign minister M.J. Akbar to brief the government about an Arab League meeting on Dec. 9 condemning the U.S. decision, a diplomatic and an Indian government source said.
The envoys also sought a more forthright Indian response, the sources said.
But Akbar gave no assurance and the Indian source said the government had no plans for a further articulation on Jerusalem, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Arabs said unhappy at India’s tepid response to Trump’s Jerusalem move,” reported The Times of Israel:
Arab countries have urged India to issue a strong condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, after New Delhi put out very muted response to the proclamation, Indian media reported, in what is being seen as a further sign of a shift in India to a more pro-Israel policy.
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) December 18, 2017
But this is not the first time Arab regimes have been ‘unhappy’ with India in recent years. Modi’s prime ministership, which began three-and-a-half year ago, has brought one disappointment after another for India’s former Arab allies.
Prime Minister Modi’s refusal to meet the head of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas during his Israel visit in July was taken as a snub by the Arabs. “Palestinians unhappy over Modi snub on Israel trip,” wrote the Qatar-based TV channel Al Jazeera.
This week, Al Jazeera lamented the “anti-Muslim right-wing consensus” within Prime Minister Modi’s nationalist party:
In previous decades – with the centrist Congress Party in power – solidarity with Palestine was an integral part of India’s foreign policy.
India-Israel ties have flourished since a ground-breaking trip by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July this year. Modi’s predecessors had kept Israel at arm’s length with New Delhi being a vocal supporter of the Palestinians.
Modi, however, has spoken of his personal affinity for Israel and his visit to the country before he became prime minister. He pointedly missed visiting Ramallah this year, the seat of the Palestine Authority and a customary stop for visiting leaders trying to maintain a balance in political ties.
Since India established full diplomatic ties with the Jewish State 25 years ago, Israel has been India’s key defense partner and strategic ally. Israel is not only a major source of defense procurement, but both countries are jointly developing defense systems, like the surface-to-air missile Barak 8, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). Israel has also offered its technical know-how in the fields of agriculture, water management, and renewable and clean technologies.
Bilateral trade and commercial ties are on the rise as well. Bilateral trade grew from a base of $200 million in early 1990s to between $4-6 billion in the recent years. Indian multinational companies like Tata Group, Tech Mahindra, and Reliance Industries have invested in Israeli tech companies and set up development centers in the country.
— Daniel Carmon???????? (@danielocarmon) December 17, 2017
Prime Minister Modi’s initiative to strengthen relations with the Jewish State has been endorsed by his political base. Leading members of Prime Minister Modi’s BJP-alliance have urged the government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and establish the country’s embassy in the holy city. “Israel has international recognition of a part of Jerusalem as its territory, hence India should shift its embassy to this part of the city,” said Subramanian Swamy, a senior leader of the BJP, following President Trump’s announcement.
India’s diplomatic shift that began in early 1990s has not been limited to trade and diplomacy alone. The last quarter-of-a-century has seen a revival of cultural ties between the two countries that also represent two ancient civilizations. Earlier this week, Israel’s envoy Ambassador Carmon rededicated two of India’s oldest synagogues in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, an especially symbolic gesture at a time when antisemitism again is on the rise in Europe and the Arab hostilities towards the Jewish State are once again out in open.
Video: Indian PM Modi meets Israeli business leaders (July 2016)
[Cover image via YouTube]
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