Israel-Palestine conflict and the isolation of India

India’s, and more particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s, much-trumpeted claim at the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September last year to stewardship of the Global South lies in tatters. India’s abstention in last week’s United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) vote on Israel has finally accomplished this.

The resolution read: ‘The Council demands that Israel, the occupying power, end its occupation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem; also demands that Israel immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip and all other forms of collective punishment, calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, for immediate emergency humanitarian access and assistance, and for the urgent restoration of basic necessities to the Palestinian population in Gaza…’

A just position on the Israel–Palestine conflict has long been a cornerstone of India’s worldview. While this had frayed since Narendra Modi took power in 2014, his hasty and partisan tweet within hours of Hamas attacking Israel’s military and intelligence-gathering installations and killing civilians on 7 October 2023 was a body blow to India’s hitherto fair and equitable approach.

Every Asian member country in the UNHRC other than India and Japan — which has historically, since its surrender in World War II, toed the United States’ line on international affairs — voted in favour of the motion: Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

Yet the Modi administration chose to remain noncommittal about Benjamin Netanyahu’s regime, which has killed 33,000 Palestinians—two-thirds of them women and children—in its ‘retaliation’ against Hamas and is not far from being accused of genocide or war crimes or both at the International Criminal Court.

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