INDIA AS A MEDIATOR IN ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT: An Olive Branch Extended

-by Manya Anjari & Nikunj Mahenshwari

At the beginning of March 2020, a delegation of the UN Committee On The Exercise Of The Inalienable Rights Of Palestine People, recommended India to initiate mediation dialogues between Israel and Palestine to allay their on-going conflict.[1]  India, being an emerging power in the West Asia region creates a requisite power balance in the mediation process. Moreover, the strategic relations of India with both countries have been on good terms as India has been successfully able to establish its neutrality on the issue of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. India’s polemical habit of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds would prove to be the guiding light if India mediated the conflict.

Through the history of Indian foreign policy towards the Israel-Palestinian issue and future role of realpolitik, India in the multi-polar world could influence both the parties. The article argues that coming to an amicable point in history’s longest standing conflict is difficult but still achievable. India by walking on its footprints and treading on the dreams of the future can prove to be an effective mediator in dousing the conflict.

India as a Historical Witness and a Future Torchbearer:

The dividing lines between Israel and Palestine are drawn mainly on two aspects – (i) Territorial and (ii) Religious. The corollary aspects of nationalism, Zionism, disdain towards the imperialism are the by-products of the two main aspects. The singular reason why a point of compromise has not been reached between the conflicting states even after the continuous efforts of the UN through the United States of America is because of a cultural gap. One of the reasons of the failure of David Camp accords as given by Ambassador Mitchel Marsh, US envoy to Irish Peace talks, is that the process of venting, listening and visioning which is important in any peace talks, did not happen as there was no perception of common concern and no trust in the relationship between the states[2]. In fact, it has been said by some critics that the creation of Hamas, a Para-military Group and the second Intifada were the products of discontent of the evangelical imperialism advocated by the US. The mutual hatred against the neo-colonialist policies is noted significantly among the people at the bottom level.

India, too, was in a strong hold of an empire in whose land the sun would never set, and after a lot of struggle, India freed itself from the shackles of colonialism.  Consequently, the then Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi advocated the idea of non-alignment and thus India became one of the first countries to be non-aligned with any of the existing superpowers. India has experience in a detached approach in the top to bottom policy decisions and the decisions regarding the benefit of the commons. India after getting independence was again cursed which manifested itself in the form of partition between India and Pakistan. The dividing lines for both the nations were based on the territorial and religious aspects. India has been a witness to the horrors of the religious divide and therefore has in itself the sympathy for the people of Palestine as well as for the people of Israel. India taking into account its history is aware that the victims in any decision taken by bureaucratic heads are always the people at the bottom. India has the ability to drive the wagon stuck in the mud of religious divide.

The recent economic ties with Israel and the recent visits of both of the Prime Ministers to each others’ states are signs of a good relationship.[3] In the conflict between Israel and Palestine, Israel is dominant in every aspect. The task of India as a balancing power is to overshadow the tyranny of Israel and at the same time become a backbone for the Palestinian cause.

Israeli analysts would certainly take into consideration the changing dynamics in the power structure of the world.[4]India currently is in a head-on contest with China to prove its influence in the entire Asian Bloc. Israel is one of the most powerful states in the Middle East enjoying its influence on the decision-making process of the region aided by the US. With rising economic interests of India, China, and the United States in the Middle East, the intrusion of these countries can shake the bedrock of the current status quo to which Israel exercises its goliath like powers. It is strategically sound for Israel to ensure ties with India, as it has an amicable relationship with the US.

The rhetoric of de-hyphenating Israel and Palestine[5] taken up by New Delhi is seen manifest in the fact that, in the recent visit to Israel, the Indian Prime Minister along with Israel did not go to Palestine as per the custom of any dignitary visiting Israel. Instead, Prime Minister met the President of Palestine in Ramallah in the west bank and thereby reasserting its support.

Realist Strategic Independence:

By the view of the current condition, it can be easily concluded that after having second Intifada the chance of having a peace agreement among the Israelis and Arabs without the intervention of a third party is not possible.

India has very shrewdly executed a delicate balance by nurturing a strong strategic partnership with Israel and showing sympathy towards the commitment of the Palestinian cause[6]. The past foreign policy of India as a newly independent non-aligned state warranted ties with Muslim countries in the Middle East. In 1948, India had voted against in the resolution passed by the UN in declaring Israel as a state[7] and has repeatedly labelled Israel as an aggressor in the conflict, thereby showing solidarity with the Palestinian cause. This shows that the road that India was taking to handle the Israel-Palestinian conflict was that of morality. India was against the influx of Jews forcefully claiming the land as their own. But in this era of globalization and co-operation, the moral prism has to go.

India on the verge of establishing its hegemony in South Asia can not afford to look upon the morality of actions of both the states. Morality is beyond the scope of international relations. In a fast increasing multipolar world, the way to maximize leverage is to make other states work for one’s favour than have it taken for granted through alliance membership. This is the concept of Realpolitik. Now the assertion of influence is not through armaments but ties and co-operation. India has to upgrade its idealist non-aligned movement into strategic realist independence. India has been successful in maintaining good relationships with Suadi Arabia, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries who have voiced their strong opinions on the conflict.

Gandhi’s Views on the Conflict:

“I want co-operation between nations for salvaging of civilization, but co-operation presupposes free nations worthy of co-operations.”

Mahatma Gandhiji’s views on the Palestinian conflict were as per his modus vivendi.[9] He distrusted the western influence on Palestine and sympathized with the hardships suffered by the Palestinian people. Gandhiji wrote that Palestine belonged to Arabs as England belonged to English and France belonged to French. In fact, Gandhiji along with some of the freedom fighters and ruling people offered to mediate the conflict but failed due to constant interference of the western countries[10]. Gandhiji was with the Palestinians in their nationalist movement.  Time and again he has pointed out that India’s salvation should be an example to all the weaker races of the Earth to free themselves from the Western hegemony. Although, Gandhiji sympathized with Jews because of incidents of the Holocaust, however, in 1938 he writes in Harijan that “my sympathy does not blind me to my requirements of justice.” [11]

India has always followed the ideals of the Mahatma. In the past, India has repeatedly rejected the attempts of Israel to have bilateral relations and has asserted its alliance with the Palestinian people. Even recently when the Gaza strip was bombarded by the Israeli Army, New Delhi condemned the actions of Israel.

Conclusion:

India is extremely reliant on Middle East countries majorly on oil and energy resources. The constant pressure of the proxy wars in the region has put India in a state of uncertainty. If the conflict is resolved it would stabilize the trade of oil and thereby benefitting India. India’s foreign policy is that of increasing India’s global standing and prestige. The resolution of the conflict of Israel and Palestine is one of the high profile cases will establish India’s credentials for competing China in the new world order and would also help the world community see that India as more than a pliant observing US’s commands. Mediating the crisis of Israel and Palestine would also prove to be beneficial in national politics. As Muslims form one of the largest minority group and in every general election Muslims form a major voting base which can sway the results of the election. Mediating a long-standing conflict in which the Muslim community’s religious sentiments are involved would make ease of the current wave of mistrust of the Muslim community towards the government.

In 1974, Yasser Arafat standing on the dais of the United Nations said that “I have come bearing an olive branch in one hand and gun of a freedom fighter in another”.[12]A long time has passed since then and the olive branch has certainly fallen off, it is now a chance for India to help Yasser Arafat in holding that olive branch again.

The views expressed are personal.

Image courtsey: Vestnik Kavtaza

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Manya Anjari and Nikunj Maheshwari are third year students at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad


[1]Outlook, UN asks India to mediate between Israel and Palestine, https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/un-asks-india-to-mediate-between-israel–palestine/1749448.

[2]Frederic S. Pearson, Dimensions of Conflict Resolution in ethno political disputes, 38, Peace Res., 275, 276 (2001).

[3]Abhinav Pandya, It’s time to rethink India’s Foreign Policy on Palestine, Fair Observer ( Mar. 30, 2020, 11:34 AM), https://www.fairobserver.com/region/central_south_asia/india-israel-palestine-united-states-news-analysis-61921/.

[4]Kadira Pethiyagoda, Time for India to play role in Israel-Palestine Peace, The Diplomat (Mar. 30, 2020, 11:36 AM), https://thediplomat.com/2018/02/time-for-india-to-play-a-role-in-israel-palestine-peace/

[5]Parul Chandra, Palestinian Cause and India’s balancing act (Mar. 30, 2020, 11:37 AM), https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/palestinian-cause-and-indias-balancing-act/article22707187.ece

[6]Supra at 3

[7] India Today, What is India’s Stand on Israel and Palestine, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/indias-stand-on-israel-and-palestine-bilateral-relations-foreign-policy-1102072-2017-12-07.

[8]Rk Prabhu& UR Rao, The Mind Of Mahatma Gandhi 289 (2015).

[9]Gideon Shimone, Gandhi, Satyagraha and Jews 45 (1977).

[10]Simone Panter Brick, Gandhi’s View on Resolution of Conflict in Palestine, 45, Middle Eastern Studies, 127, 128 (2009).

[11] Countercurrents.org, The Jews in Palestine, https://www.countercurrents.org/pa-gandhi170903.htm.

[12]Shamir Hassan & Shamir Hasan, The Palestinian Peace Process and its Enemies, 65, IHC, 1031, 1031 (2004).

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