By Anuraag Khaund
The conflagration between Israel and Hamas has added further to the instability plaguing the current international order along with other conflicts such as the conflict in Ukraine. With the intensifying of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, there has emerged the danger of the current clash spilling over the current borders and engaging other regional players including Iran and its proxies such as Hezbollah[i], Saudi Arabia[ii] and even the US and China[iii]. In addition to having adverse implications upon the political, economic[iv], and other spheres of West Asia, the worsening situation in the Gaza strip has also raised concerns in India as well. Along with the effects on crude oil prices and energy supplies[v], the conflict also has led to fears of the potential derailment of the Israel- Saudi normalisation talks as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords which is crucial for the success of India included initiatives such as the I2U2 (India, Israel, US, and UAE)[vi] and the India- Middle East Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC)[vii]. Given its high stakes in the region, New Delhi cannot afford to remain as a bystander in the current conflict.
India finds itself in a unique position with regards to its relationship with both Israel and Palestine. While the Indo- Israeli ties have witnessed new bounds under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi since the latter’s visit to Tel Aviv in 2017 and thereby becoming the first Indian PM to do so, at the same time New Delhi has also maintained its solidarity with Palestine since the time of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) government in 1974[viii]. This was also reflected in the reiteration of India’s ‘longstanding and consistent policy’ of the two-state solution of peaceful co-existence of Israel and Palestine while also condemning the actions of Hamas on October 7 in a call to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu by Modi[ix]. At the same time, PM Modi also reached out to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas[x] while also heeding to the latter’s request for humanitarian aid by sending an IAF- C17 flight carrying nearly 6.5 tonnes of medical aid and 32 tonnes of disaster relief material to Egypt for delivery to the beleaguered Gaza population[xi]. Moreover, there have emerged voices, such as the Palestinian Ambassador to India, Adnan Mohammad Jaber Abualhayjaa, who sought the active role of India in persuading Israel for a ceasefire and allowing distribution of humanitarian aid while acting as a mediator between Tel Aviv and Ramallah[xii].
In view of the above, India should not hesitate to play a more proactive role in brokering a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. This opportunity also comes a time when there have emerged stumbling blocks in the relationship between Israel and China. The generic and ambiguous stance taken by China on the attacks of October 7 and Israeli actions while not actively denouncing Hamas[xiii] or even referring to it in its official statement has ruffled feathers in the Israeli administration[xiv]. Matters have also been aggravated by the stabbing of an Israeli diplomat stationed in Beijing by an unknown assailant[xv]and the vetoing of the US drafted resolution on the condemnation of the Hamas attack and the release of hostages by China, along with Russia in the UN Security Council[xvi]. This downgrading has been further exacerbated by the removal of Israel or its name from the maps of online Chinese platforms of Alibaba and Baidu[xvii] India should not hesitate to take advantage of this situation in Sino- Israeli ties and be the first one to broker a peace deal between Tel Aviv and Ramallah in the manner of the Iran- Saudi détente brought about by China in April 2023[xviii]. Such a deal will not only serve Indian interests by raising its stature in the eyes of Israel and Arab states, but also further cement the ties between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. This can be used to bolster the Indian strategic presence in the Haifa port[xix]− a crucial part of the IMEC which also forms a part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)[xx].
While supporting the Israeli right to self- defence, India should also try to convince Tel Aviv that not all Gazans are supporters of Hamas[xxi] and hence prevent the targeting of critical civilian infrastructure such as hospitals while allowing the entry of more humanitarian aid through its blockade. At the same time, New Delhi should also influence Tel Aviv to open backchannel diplomacy with the Palestinian government and other moderate actors in Gaza to bring about a halt to the current conflict and start the initial process to dialogue and reconciliation. At this juncture, India along with the US could also remind Israel of the long-term costs and consequences of intensified offensive in Gaza which would be detrimental not only to Israeli security but also the entire region[xxii]. On the other hand, the momentum of the initial dialogue could be channelised by India, along with the US, to arrive at a permanent solution acceptable to both Israel and Palestine. Given the recent increasing alignment between India and Egypt[xxiii] including shared concerns on the threat of terrorism emanating from the current crisis[xxiv], Cairo could also be roped in the peace-making process given the latter’s vital stakes in the existence of a peaceful and stable Gaza bordering the Sinai Peninsula[xxv]
While China, or certain sections of its military apparatus view the ‘sever thrashing of Israel’ as a necessity in its future war against US in the Middle East[xxvi], India sincerely seeks the establishment of peace and stability in the Levant not just for its own interests but for the benefit of all in the spirit of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam where ‘The World is One Family.’
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- Anuraag Khaund is pursuing PhD in International Politics (IP) from Central University of Gujarat (CUG)
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