India’s decision to abstain from voting on a UN resolution condemning Israel for possible war crimes in Gaza is being viewed in Israel as a victory for its diplomacy and yet another step in the rapprochement between the two states since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected last year.
India, for decades one of the leading forces in the alliance of non-aligned nations which automatically voted against Israel in all international fora, was one of only five countries that abstained on Friday when the UN Human Rights Council voted in favor of adopting the report of the Gaza Conflict Commission of Inquiry.
Even staunch friends of Israel, among them France, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands were among the 41 which voted in favor. Kenya, Ethiopia, Macedonia, India and Paraguay abstained and the United States was the only member to vote against.
According to Israeli diplomats cited Sunday by the Ynet web site, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described India’s abstention as a “significant and unprecedented achievement”, noting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had personally reached out to Modi, urging him to abstain.
Ties between India and Israel have indeed been getting closer. Earlier this year Moshe Ya’alon became the first Israeli defense minister to visit India, and Modi himself is planning a historic visit to Israel later this year. When Netanyahu and Modi met last year in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu told Modi that the “sky is the limit” in Israeli-Indian ties.
But New Delhi was quick to explain away its abstention, saying it stemmed from the resolution call on Israel and Hamas to cooperate with an investigation of possible war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague – an organization which India does not recognize and is not a member of.
India’s reaction could also be explained by the condemnation that were quick to emerge from the opposition, which accused the government of a “complete reversal” of India’s policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sitaram Yechury, the secretary general of India’s CPI party told the Hindu Times that the “government should withdraw from this position and extend solidarity with Palestine.”
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier denied any shift in government policy saying “to say that we are tilted towards Israel or we are making any changes in our policy is wrong… with regard to Palestine India’s foreign policy has not undergone any change.”