In an astute display of diplomacy, India has leveraged a global platform to further recalibrate its stand on the current Israel-Hamas conflict.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the second Voice of Global South Summit (VOGSS) — which India is hosting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his virtual address last Friday, condemned the Hamas attacks of October 7 as well as the rising civilian deaths due to the resultant conflict. He urged global leaders to speak in one voice on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“We are all seeing the new challenges emerging from the events in the West Asia region. India has condemned the terrorist attack in Israel on October 7. We urged for a restrained response along with dialogue and diplomacy. We also strongly condemn the deaths of civilians in the conflict between Israel and Hamas,” media reports quoted Modi as saying at the summit.
Modi’s comment on the Gaza struggle at the second edition of the VOGSS is much more balanced and in sync with India’s longstanding stance on the Palestinian issue than his initial remark when the Indian Prime Minister rushed to defend Israel after the Hamas attack.
Soon after the Hamas attack on Israel in early October, Modi was one of the first global leaders to respond. He denounced the “terrorist attacks” and declared that India “stands in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour” in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
India’s pro-Israeli posture was clear when in late October New Delhi abstained on the United Nations (UN) resolution — drafted by Jordan — that called for an immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities. The resolution did not make any mention of the militant group Hamas. The resolution, however, garnered 121 votes in favour, many of which were from the Global South.
India’s pro-Israeli stand did not go down well with the opposition political parties in the country. They obviously sniffed the ruling party’s rightist stance and the apathy towards a particular religious community.
Though the next Lok Sabha election is around the corner, the Modi government is perhaps not much bothered by the local political opposition. But given the current political leadership’s ambition on India’s global role, the government is mindful of world opinion and how India is perceived by others.
India’s support for the UN resolution against “Israeli settlements” in early November signalled that New Delhi is rebalancing its stand on the Israel-Hamas struggle. Along with 144 other countries, India on November 9 voted in favour of the resolution that condemned Israeli settlement activities in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan”.
Modi’s address at the second VOGSS is a continuation of India’s bid to rebalance its stance on the Gaza conflict.
India’s pro-Israeli tilt in West Asia diplomacy has been quite discernible in recent times. Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel in 2017. Not to forget that India now buys about $2 billion worth of arms every year from that country, making up over 30 percent of Israel’s total exports of armaments. Moreover, to further its global ambition and keep Washington in good humour, New Delhi has joined the I2U2, a grouping comprising India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
However, the number of votes cast in favour of the UN resolutions that did not exactly support Israel reflected the mood of the Global South on the issue. India gauged the mood and used the latest VOGSS to let the world know its position on the Gaza struggle.
New Delhi understands that simply aligning with the Western lobby, which is spearheaded by the US that is sympathetic towards Israel, will not be enough to satisfy its desire to emerge as a counter-force to China and fulfil the ambition of becoming the leader of Global South.
Though the Gaza struggle cast a shadow on the second VOGSS, India rightly tried to veer the discourse at the conference towards economic, climate, and other key issues that are impeding global growth.
This is perhaps why, while addressing the VOGSS on Friday, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar urged the Global South to focus on self-reliance by diversifying production, building reliable supply chains, and promoting local solutions to overcome the “perils of dependence...on far away geographies”, a thinly veiled swipe at China.
If India can be instrumental in forging a bigger economic cooperation involving the majority of nations of the world, its ambition to emerge as a top global leader will gain tremendous momentum. Let us hope that the subtle shift in stand on the Gaza conflict will help India reap rich economic and geopolitical dividends.
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