Why India is silent on Gaza conflict?

Egyptians have stepped in again to broker truce between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni Islamic organisation, which is engaged in a slanging match with Israel on the ceasefire issue. Both sides are unwilling to leave the battlefield unless conditions are met. Hamas leaders say the war with Israel would not be over until their demands for a lifting of the Gaza blockade are met. Tel Aviv says Hamas militants must disarm first for initiating peace process. This has resulted in the first round of ceasefire called upon by neighbouring West Asian countries and the United Nations, losing its purposes within hours of its declaration. Killing spree continues in Gaza. Since July 8 when Israel launched a massive air assault more than 2,000 Palestinians have lost their lives in comparison to 64 Israeli soldiers. The war stemmed from the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. While Gaza is burning and killings are on, all big powers, including India are silent except for passing few comments here and there.

New Delhi’s approach to the Gaza issue

Surprisingly, New Delhi which is aspiring for becoming a superpower is maintaining a balance in its approach to the crisis. “We fully support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently told the parliamentarians in response to opposition Congress and other parties’ inquiry on New Delhi’s stand on the Gaza conflict. The NDA-government under the leadership of Narendra Modi is perceived to be close to Israel which has invested billions in agriculture, desalination, solar and thermal power and other projects in Gujarat. Modi himself as the then Chief Minister of Gujarat had led a huge delegation to Israel in 2006 for an agricultural technology conference. In late 2013, an agreement was signed with the Israeli company Tower Semiconductor Ltd, and a few other non-Israeli companies to build two semiconductor fabrication plants in Gujarat for a total cost of $10.4 billion.

Experts say even if the UPA government would have been power, New Delhi couldn’t have gone to the extent of passing an anti-Israeli resolution in parliament. They say it was in 1992 under the Congress-led government relations with Tel Aviv were revived. During the last 10 years of the UPA-1 and the UPA-II government, Israel became second largest exporter of defence equipment to India after Russia. In 2010, bilateral trade, excluding military sales, stood at $4.7 billion. In August 2012, New Delhi and Tel Aviv signed a $50 million academic research agreement. The two sides had started negotiating an extensive bilateral free trade pact, focusing on areas such as information technology, biotechnology and agriculture. International watchers say whatever be the public posturing of the country’s some political parties towards Israel, virtually, a bipartisan support exists for this West Asian country.

Global powers in inactive mode

Nonetheless, Tel Aviv blames Hamas for the ongoing conflict in Gaza being governed de-facto by the group since 2007. According to a rough estimate, on account of fight in the 365 sq km long enclave of Palestine which borders on its east and north side Israel and South and West side Egypt, a quarter of Gaza population has been rendered homeless. Schools have been turned into shelter homes where tens of thousands of people are staying. Israeli shells have destroyed sewage and desalination plants, knocked out Gaza’s sole electricity station, and pulverized Gaza factories and export industries. And all powers, including veto-wielding countries, are mutely watching the events at the cost of such huge destruction. Instead of forcing both the warring sides for restraint, they are offering vitriolic statements. “No country should be expected to stand by while rocket attacks from a terrorist organization (read Hamas) are launching into their country and impacting innocent civilians,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said. While a statement released by English Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said he “strongly condemned the appalling attacks being carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians.” He underlined Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas.

Contrary to this, Iran and several Arab countries have condemned Israel and the West for the on-going conflict.  “Adopt measures to stop Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip,” Arab League General-Secretary Nabil-al Arabi said, while calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

For the moment, however, fresh initiative has been undertaken to hammer out peace between the two warring sides. Sticking points in Israeli and Hamas’ demands are being sorted out through Cairo’s help. Tel Aviv’s demand is that Hamas guarantees that the group would not build tunnels to infiltrate Israel, while Hamas’s demand is that economically stifling blockade of Gaza, imposed by both Israel and Egypt must be withdrawn. It is ultimately only a wait-and-watch scenario for India too.