PM Modi misses key issues on Palestine

When Mr Modi flew into Ramallah from Jordan, he was escorted by Israeli helicopters.

Whatever the reason, it is good that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Ramallah on Saturday, marking the first time an Indian Prime Minister has been in Palestine. It keeps alive India’s connection with that most significant of links with the idea of opposing colonial occupations. In practical terms, perhaps he went in order to balance the fact that he had visited Israel last year, the only Indian PM to do so. Earlier this year he received the Israel PM in New Delhi with extraordinary warmth and ceremony. In fact, before visiting Israel, the government had announced that the PM would also be going to the Palestinian territory afterward. By now it has become obvious to Israelis and to Indians that this Indian leader has taken a huge stride in getting India even closer to Israel than their very cooperative defence purchase relationship might warrant. There is an ideological affinity here, not an affinity based on transactional need alone.

But why should Mr Modi bother visiting Palestine at all? Why can’t it be only Israel? After all, the RSS and the BJP, and its precursor the Jana Sangh, really had no sympathy for the Palestinian issue, which it saw as a Muslim issue and not one of colonial occupation. The reason is that if India pursued a pro-Israel path without bothering with Palestine, its diplomacy may have a tough time across West Asia and North Africa. Even the Europeans will not risk anything like that. Getting cut off from a politically important and resource-rich part of the world is a thoroughly bad idea even in pragmatic terms. However, it couldn’t have been missed that Mr Modi had gone to Israel on a standalone visit, signalling a particular importance. He combined the trip to Palestine with two other countries. This won’t matter to the Palestinians of course. But it does demarcate the nature of the relationship, as the government perceives it.

Besides, when Mr Modi flew into Ramallah from Jordan, he was escorted by Israeli helicopters. This would have raised questions in the minds of many, considering the state of the Palestine-Israel relationship. The Indian leader signed agreements with President Mahmoud Abbas and undertook projects worth $50 million for a hospital, printing press and schools. This is really a notional sum in pursuit of influence, and not too different from a well-funded international NGO may agree to do. The real question is whether Mr Modi will use his influence with Israel to give satisfaction to the Palestinian leadership on key questions relating to Palestinian sovereignty, as Mr Abbas would like. The Indian PM avoided the question of East Jerusalem being Palestine’s capital, though the Palestine President raised it. There was no India-Palestine ringing joint statement either. Perhaps Mr Modi would like just development ties, not political ones, with Palestine.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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