Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Prime Minister Modiís visit to Israel puts Palestine-India relations at risk


By Ayesha Khan - July 07, 2017
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, although he made no attempt to visit the occupied West Bank territory or address the Israeli-Palestinian issue throughout his trip.

Before Modi’s arrival, he posted a statement on Twitter where he called Netanyahu "my friend ... who shares a commitment for vibrant India-Israel ties." He added: "from boosting economic ties to furthering people-to-people interactions, my Israel visit has a wide range of programs."

Upon arrival, Modi was dressed in blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag, and went on to proclaim, “India for Israel.” His sentiments are paralleled by the "largest defense contract deal" signed by India and Israel in April, which amounted to about $2 billion, and saw Israel become one of the major defense suppliers for India.

According to Abhijit Iyer-Mitra from the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, India’s shift in foreign policy can be accredited to its economic interests. He told CNN, "the West and Israel focus on the quality of technology and that becomes a massive force equalizer... Israel, Europe and America do not sell to China, and that's really the biggest aspect of that India and Israel relationship." Mitra added, "one of the reasons that Israel and the West are really important for India is that China can outspend India any day and every day."

Notably, Modi belongs to the Hindu nationalist right-wing faction, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been accused of being complicit in the increasing violence against Muslims in India. Modi’s focus on building economic and technological development ties with Israel and other countries, is an attempt at diverting attention away from human rights abuses in India, which works to Israel’s advantage.

A joint statement released by India and Israel this past Wednesday declared that the two states had “underlined the need for the establishment of a just and durable peace in the region,” it continued, “[they] reaffirmed [their] support for an early negotiated solution between the sides based on mutual recognition and security arrangements.”

Historically, India has been a strong proponent for the Palestinian cause through utilizing the rhetoric of human rights abuses against the colonized population, having gained independence itself from the British in 1947. Furthermore, up until 1992, Indian passport holders were not allowed to enter Israel.

In May, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a four-day visit to India upon the request of the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee, both parties held discussion over the prospects for Palestine-India Techno Park and showed interest in furthering computer technology development.

During the visit, Abbas was invited to state dinner by Modi, and the Prime Minister expressed his “hopes for early resumption of talks between Palestine and Israel leading to the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine."

"We expected him [Modi] to visit both Israel and Palestine," Tasir Jaradat, Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister, told Al Jazeera. "To play an important role between the two sides and to be able to spread the message of peace, one should visit both."

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