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Is India’s Palestine policy evolving?


  • The violence between Israel and Hamas has been intensifying for more than a week in May 2021, showing no signs of abating despite regular diplomatic efforts to bring about a ceasefire.
  • At the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on 16th May 2021, India, a non-permanent member, reaffirmed its support for Palestine, but stopped short of making any direct reference to the status of Jerusalem or the future Israel-Palestine borders.
  • India reiterated its strong support for the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution.


GS-II: International Relations (India’s Foreign Policies, Important International Developments)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Israel-Palestine conflict: A 100-year-old issue
  2. What is the Two-state Solution?
  3. India’s stand in the Israel – Palestine conflict
  4. India’s Evolving position

Israel-Palestine conflict: A 100-year-old issue

  • Britain took control of the area known as Palestine after the Ottoman Empire (ruler of that part of the Middle East) was defeated in WW1. The land was inhabited by a Jewish minority and Arab majority.
  • Tensions between the two peoples grew when the international community gave Britain the task of establishing a “national home” in Palestine for Jewish people. For Jews, it was their ancestral home, but Palestinian Arabs also claimed the land and opposed the move.
  • In 1948, unable to solve the problem, British rulers left and Jewish leaders declared the creation of the state of Israel.
  • Many Palestinians objected and a war followed. Troops from neighbouring Arab countries invaded. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes in what they call Al Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.
  • By the time the fighting ended in a ceasefire in 1949, Israel controlled most of the territory.
  • Jordan occupied land which became known as the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza.
  • Jerusalem was divided between Israeli forces in the West, and Jordanian forces in the East.
  • Because there was never a peace agreement – each side blamed the other – there were more wars and fighting in the decades which followed.

After 1960s

  • In another war in 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as most of the Syrian Golan Heights, and Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.
  • Most Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in neighbouring Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
  • Neither they nor their descendants have been allowed by Israel to return to their homes – Israel says this would overwhelm the country and threaten its existence as a Jewish state.
  • Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.
  • Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The US is one of only a handful of countries to recognise Israel’s claim to the whole of the city.
  • In the past 50 years Israel has built settlements in these areas, where more than 600,000 Jews now live.
  • Palestinians say these are illegal under international law and are obstacles to peace, but Israel denies this.

Click Here to read more about the understanding the territory of the region: West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem

What is the Two-state Solution?

  • The two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict envisages an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.
  • The boundary between the two states is still subject to dispute and negotiation, with Palestinian and Arab leadership insisting on the “1967 borders”, which is not accepted by Israel.
  • Many attempts have been made to broker a two-state solution, involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel (after Israel’s establishment in 1948).
  • In 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, preferred the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict.

India’s stand in the Israel – Palestine conflict

  • In the early 1920s and amidst the Khilafat struggle, Indian nationalists made common cause with the Arabs of Palestine and adopted a position that was unsympathetic to the Jewish aspirations for a national home in Palestine.
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s 1938 statement said “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English and France to the French”.
  • Prime Minister Narasimha Rao hosted Arafat in 1992 for the first time and signalled India’s intention of abandoning its four decades old policy of non-relations with Israel.
  • India has consistently voted in favour of those resolutions that promote the two-state solution with a Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem.
  • Peace based on two-state solution is much needed in the face of international proposals that are in breach of these principles, and cannot be forged between Israel and a third country [U.S.], but can only come from Israel-Palestine talks, which India also supports.

India’s Evolving position

  • While refusing to toe the Israeli line on the conflict, India’s comments also point to its evolving position on the larger Israel-Palestine issue.
  • In the May 2021 UNSC meet: India called for the status quo relating to East Jerusalem, but the crucial point that’s missing in India’s statement is that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Earlier, this used to be the mantra from India regarding the two-state solution.
  • Therefore, India simply gave lip service to the two-state solution without mentioning that East Jerusalem is the core part of that two-state solution.
  • Until 2017, India’s position was that it supported “the Palestinian cause and called for a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel”. India dropped the references to East Jerusalem and the borders in 2017.

-Source: The Hindu

June 2024