As conflict in the Gaza strip sets in, disruptions in Parliamentary proceedings have happened thousands of miles away in a country neither directly nor indirectly involved in the conflict, India. Israel and Palestine have been at each other’s throats ever since Israel’s creation after the Second World War in previously-controlled Palestinian territory. The recent violence has blown out of proportion as Israel’s bombs rock the Gaza strip amid serious provocations by the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip. Hamas, described by many western nations as a terrorist organization has been in control of Gaza in recent times and has orchestrated several attacks against Israel. Israel too is supposed to be blamed for such a conflict.
As Jewish refugees fled Nazi strongholds after the Second World War to the land of Israel, they assisted in creating new refugees in the form of Palestinians. Today, Palestinian refugees live on Israeli military-administered territory alongside Jewish families and their basic amenities are disregarded. A classic example of how the hunted has become the hunter. Over the years aimless peace talks went on under US supervision. This frustration gave birth to the Hamas. A violent Sunni Muslim organization, Hamas fights for the rights of Palestinians.
A few days back, Parliamentary proceedings in India were disrupted by the opposition party, Congress which demanded answers from the external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, about the stand that India plans to take in the conflict. The ruling BJP has not picked sides as yet and has refrained from doing so. India is presented with a sticky wicket here and the government has a lot to lose by taking sides. If the Congress would have been the ruling party, it would have come out in favour of the Palestinians in order to appease its widespread Muslim vote bank despite Israel being an important defense and strategic ally of India. Backing Israel is seen as a rightist policy, which may actually happen, considering the BJP mindset.
The government has kept its cards close to its chest. Backing Israel today would mean disenchantment of those Muslims who are Muslims first and Indians second (a potential Congress vote bank). Also, the Middle East is India’s prime oil supplier and any policy to oppose their moves could backfire easily. India has cultural ties with the Middle East which go centuries back and therefore, the Middle East has always emerged as a natural ally amid its conflicts with Israel. India also had positive communications with the erstwhile Saddam regime while India has business interests in Egypt, Iraq and Iran.
Israel has always been protective of Jews everywhere, whether Indian, American or Ethiopian. In the 26/11 attacks, even Nariman House, a Jewish landmark was attacked provoking reactions from the state of Israel. By disregarding Israel’s claims and supporting the Middle Eastern regimes, India risks opening the Pandora’s Box of being labelled as a Hamas sympathizer by Western powers, which it cannot risk in such tumultuous times for its defense forces. Israel can provide India valuable defense training and technology which will be invaluable in times of Chinese and Pakistani aggression and infiltration. By risking Israel’s disenchantment, we lose out on defense contracts.
Must we lose out on prospective all-weather allies by being stupid and picking sides in a war that doesn’t concern us?