Two months after Israel initiated airstrikes on Gaza in response to the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas, India changed its stance and, along with 152 other nations, supported a resolution at the UN General Assembly. This marked a shift from India’s previous abstention during the last UNGA resolution on October 26, despite the death of 8,000 Gazans, which also called for a ceasefire.
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India recently voted in favour of a resolution in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) that demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Analyse the factors that could have led to this change in India’s stance. What should be India’s future foreign policy approach while dealing with Israel? (15 Marks, 250 Words).
Background of the Israel-Palestine Conflict:
In 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour officially expressed Britain’s support for the establishment of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, laying the foundation for the conflict.
Creation of Palestine:
Due to escalating Arab and Jewish violence, Britain withdrew from Palestine in 1948, leaving the United Nations to address the conflicting claims. The UN proposed a partition plan for independent Jewish and Arab states, which was largely rejected by Arab nations.
Arab-Israel War (1948):
The declaration of Israel’s independence in 1948 led neighboring Arab states to launch an attack. After the war, Israel controlled significantly more territory than originally outlined in the UN partition plan.
UN Partition Plan:
The UN’s partition plan assigned control of the West Bank and Jerusalem’s holy sites to Jordan, while Egypt governed the Gaza Strip. However, it failed to resolve the Palestinian crisis, leading to the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1964.
Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO):
Established in 1964, the PLO aimed to free Palestine from Israeli dominance. The United Nations granted the PLO observer status in 1975, recognizing the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
In the 1967 war, Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt.
Camp David Accords (1978):
The U.S.-brokered “Framework for Peace in the Middle East” in 1978 set the stage for peace talks between Israel and its neighbors, aiming to resolve the Palestinian issue. However, these efforts remained unfulfilled.
Emergence of Hamas:
Founded in 1987, Hamas, a violent offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, sought to fulfill its agenda through violent jihad. The U.S. designates Hamas as a terrorist organization.
First Intifada (1987):
Tensions in the occupied territories led to the First Intifada, a conflict between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army.
In 1993, the Oslo Accords led to official recognition between Israel and the PLO, renouncing violence. The Palestinian Authority was established, receiving limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
Territorial Disputes of Israel with Neighboring Countries:
The West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights have been focal points of territorial disputes between Israel and its neighboring countries. Israel’s control over these areas has led to ongoing conflicts and geopolitical tensions.
More on the Recent UN Resolution:
- The resolution called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, adherence to international humanitarian law, the unconditional release of hostages, and ensuring humanitarian access.
- The government and the Ministry of External Affairs explained this as a matter of principle, citing India’s unwavering “zero-tolerance” stance on terrorism, especially since the earlier resolution lacked an “explicit condemnation” of the October 7 attacks.
- However, despite the absence of direct mention of the terror attacks in the UNGA resolution passed on December 12, India voted in favor.
Rationale Behind India’s Stance:
- The government has not yet elaborated on the rationale, but there could be multiple reasons, including a relentless rise in casualty figures, reaching 18,000 deaths with almost 90 journalists among the victims.
- Over 80% of the entire population is now homeless. Even the United States, Israel’s primary ally, estimates that almost half of the 29,000 air-to-ground munitions deployed by Israel are “unguided” or indiscriminate missiles.
- The Israeli Defense Forces have exceeded their initial mandate, which was to eliminate Hamas capacity and free hostages. They have now engaged in extensive destruction in Gaza and the forced occupation of additional territory. Over 100 Israeli hostages are still held by Hamas.
- Global opinion, including that of the Indian public, has shifted from sympathy for Israel to horror at the unfolding aftermath.
- New Delhi may not have been unaffected by pleas from Palestine and the Gulf States to reconsider its vote, especially as India found itself isolated in South Asia and the Global South due to its previous abstention.
Interpreting India’s Stance:
- It might be premature to interpret India’s UNGA vote as a complete reversal of its previous stance and a return to its initial position in the conflict, where it traditionally advocated for peace.
- The future trajectory will hinge on the role India decides to play in ensuring the effectiveness and sustainability of the ceasefire, especially considering Israel’s rejection of the UNGA resolution.
After demonstrating its support for Israel in the aftermath of the terror attacks and bearing the criticism for civilian casualties, the Indian government should take a more assertive stance in assisting the Israeli government navigate the strategic challenges it has entered through military actions. This situation has the potential to lead to regional instability and insecurity for decades, and India’s involvement is crucial in finding a resolution.