In his three-hour-long visit to Ramallah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted India’s support for a sovereign and independent Palestine. He was conferred the "Grand Collar of the State of Palestine" by the President of Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Modi also visited Yasser Arafat’s memorial and there were agreements signed for a hospital and a centre for women’s empowerment.
It would seem hard to believe that just last month, New Delhi rolled out the red carpet for Benjamin Netanyahu. Last July, Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. These trips have only highlighted the already swelling friendship between India and Israel. From agricultural to water agreements, from Bollywood to defence- Israel’s growing influence in these fields is a result of Modi government’s pro-Israel stance.
However, the new buzz word from India’s foreign policy corridors is ‘dehyphenation’ of India’s relation with Israel-Palestine. The sustaining myth here is that India can engage with Israel and Palestine on different, mutually exclusive terms. As pointed out elsewhere too, relations with the colonizer and the colonized, the occupier and the occupied can never be ‘dehyphenated’.
The fact of the matter is, India’s growing relations with Israel, legitimizes and funds Israeli repression, apartheid and colonization of Palestine. The agricultural companies that sell unsustainable agricultural technology to Indian farmers are the ones stealing water from Palestinians and facilitating water apartheid. The arms, surveillance and crowd control technologies that India buys to militarize Kashmir, North East and central India, spending 26% of the national budget are ‘trained and tested’, i.e. used against Palestinian. The deepening of India-Israel relations is plain and simple a complicity with Israel’s crimes.
At United Nations as well, while India joined the countries opposing the US decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in the past, it has abstained from voting on the UN Human Rights Commission resolution of Gaza 2014 and another on International Criminal Court probe against Israel for the same. Fear of isolation seems to reign over any principled position when it comes to India’s position on Israel-Palestine.
The growing Modi-Netanyahu bond is decisively ideological. India under Modi is faced with an ever-increasing repression of dissent and critique. The spectre of lynchings of Muslims and Dalits haunts everyday life, as does manufacturing of communal tensions. Kashmir in 2016 saw civilian killings and mass blinding through pellet guns reaching figures of hundreds. This decisive right-ward shift finds home in Israel’s colonization, occupation and apartheid of Palestine.
This is the 70th year of Nakba- the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to establish Israel. The siege of Gaza, the brutalization of people in occupied territories, including ongoing ethnic cleansing, the second-class status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, the apartheid wall- all are legitimized in India’s growing ties with Israel.
In these conditions, it is plain wishful at best, and cruel at worst to argue that India can be neutral on Israel-Palestine. The real support and the moral compass of solidarity lie with the people of India who are steadily building the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in the country. Started by Palestinians in 2005, this is the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society working to pressurize Israel till it respects Palestinian human rights and follows international law. In India, from farmers to women’s groups to the queer movement, all have been working to strengthen the just call for BDS. They continue to remind us that there is nothing neutral about oppression.
Apoorva Gautam is from Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, India (BDS India)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.