India’s support for the Palestinian cause is an integral part of the nation’s foreign policy. In 1974, India became the first Non-Arab State to recognize Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. India has played an active role in extending support for the Palestinian cause across various multilateral fora.
Evolution of the relations:
- 1974: India became the first non-Arab state to recognize Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO).
- 1988: India was one of the first countries to recognize the State of Palestine.
- 1996: India opened its Representative Office to the State of Palestine in Gaza.
- 2003: It was shifted to Ramallah. Unlike in Israel, India does not have an embassy in Palestine.
- October 2011: India voted in favour of Palestine for its acceptance as a full member of UNESCO.
- November 29, 2012: India co-sponsored the resolution that made Palestine a ‘non- memberstate’ of United Nations General Assembly.
- April 2015: India supported the Bandung Declaration on Palestine at Asian African Commemorative Conference
- September 2015: India supported installation of Palestine flag at UN premises.
Indian and Palestine Relations
- Indian and Palestine relations are old and time tested. India’s development assistance for Palestine has been consistent and has grown over the years.
- India has always supported the cause of Palestine and since 1988 India has recognized Palestine. India is engaged in the nation building efforts of Palestine in several sectors like IT,Education, Rural development and capacity building. India is providing aid and financial assistance to Palestine. Recently at the UNGA resolution, India voted against US President Donald Trump decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
India’s focus to Link West:
After the Act East policy, the government is shifting the focus to Link West. West Asia has always been India’s extended neighborhood. But India has not paid much attention to West Asia considering the importance of this area in terms of political and economic affairs. Most of India’s energy requirements come from West Asia. 6 million Indian origin works in the gulf and the West Asia who send huge remittances to India. The new dimension to the relationship is in terms of security and counter terrorism where the countries are facing the problem of terrorism. There are many areas of convergence between India and West Asia.
- There have been regular high level bilateral visits between India and Palestine.
- Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi paid a historic first-ever visit to Palestine on February 10, 2018.
- Former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee paid a historic first-ever visit to Palestine in October 2015.
- The first ever Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) between India and Palestine was held in Ramallah in November 2016.
- The first ever Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) between India and Palestine was held in Ramallah in May, 2015.
- The second round of FOC was held in New Delhi in April 2017.
- India, Brazil, South Africa (IBSA) Fund has also financed five projects in Palestine, namely Indoor Multipurpose Sports Complex in Ramallah, Phase I and Phase II of Setting Up of Cardiothoracic Unit of Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s Al Quds hospital in Gaza, Atta Habib Medical Center in Gaza and Rehabilitation Centre for People with Mental Disabilities in Nablus.
- Trade between India and Palestine is conducted through Israel and therefore, comprehensive trade statistics are not available.
- Limited data suggests that India-Palestine annual bilateral trade is worth about US$ 40 million
- Indian exports include marble, granite and other stones, Basmati Rice, raw material for making vaccines, coffee, cashew nuts, sugar, sweet biscuits, sacks and bags for the packing of goods, etc.
- Palestinian exports are mainly virgin olive oil and its fractions, dates, etc.
- In terms of sectors automotive spare parts, medical tourism, agro-products, textiles, fabrics, readymade garments, household appliances, stationery products, leather and leather products, agrochemicals, plastic products, pharmaceuticals and engineering goods could be the target sectors for Indian manufacturers and exporters.
Culture & People to People relations:
- Indian arts and culture, especially Indian movies are very popular in Palestine.
- Several cultural activities, including film shows and photo exhibitions have been organized by the Representative Office of India in various Palestinian cities in addition to screening of documentaries prepared by Public Diplomacy division, MEA in local TV channels, schools and youth clubs.
- The first Indian restaurant in Ramallah was opened in January 2018.
- India-Palestine Youth Exchange Programme was started in 2017.
The Palestine-India Techno Park:
- The park will be located next to the Birzeit University Academic Campus.
- The Representative of India to Palestine, Sunil Kumar, released third tranche of funding, worth $3 million, for the construction of a Palestine-India Techno Park.
- In total, India has made a commitment of investing over $12 million, part of India’s broader framework of capacity building in Palestine. The Indian government pays $3 million on a half- yearly basis.
- The Techno Park is meant to create a national business environment and culture “that will enable knowledge-based and creative enterprises as well as technology clusters to successfully operate locally, regionally and globally”.
- Its objectives include establishing an environment that is accessible to industry, supporting the process of commercialization and industrialization, supporting entrepreneurship and bridging the knowledge gap between the private sector and academia.
- India’s investment towards the park is part of India’s support to the Palestinian cause.
- Once completed, the Technopark will serve as an IT hub in Palestine with complete IT facilities offering a one-stop solution to all IT-related service requirements, providing state of-the-art technology, hosting IT companies and foreign companies benefitting local business, Universities and other institutions.
- Israel-Palestine relations are not just a serious issue but a very complicated issue. India has always talked about peaceful solution. India believes in a two-state solution in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully.
- In West Asia the political and strategic scenario is changing very quickly. India wants to dehyphenate its relationship with Israel and Palestine and see them as mutually independent and exclusive. These are two standalone relationships and they should not be hyphenated together. It shows the maturity on part of the Israel also as it has recognized this aspect of Indian diplomacy and is confident of their relationship with India.
- This allows India to maintain the image of its historical moral support for Palestinian selfdetermination, and at the same time to engage in military, economic, and other strategic relations with Israel
India’s Position on Palestine:
- India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country.
- Along with political support, India has been contributing material and technical assistance to the Palestinian people.
- In 2016 India pledged a USD 1.25 million to the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees
- India has always been a leading partner in educational support and capacity building process
- The recent visit of India’s President to Palestine manifests India’s support to Palestine cause is still intact.
- The critics view is that Indian policy is certainly affected by US in recent times.
How has India’s policy on Israel and Palestine evolved over time?
- India’s policy on the longest running conflict in the world has gone from being unequivocally pro-Palestine for the first four decades, to a tense balancing act with its three- decade-old friendly ties with Israel. In recent years, India’s position has also been perceived as pro-Israel.
1. Post 1948:
- In 1948, India was the only non-Arab-state among 13 countries that voted against the UN partition plan of Palestine in the General Assembly that led to the creation of Israel.
- In 1975, India became the first non-Arab country to recognise the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and invited it to open an office in Delhi, which was accorded diplomatic status five years later.
- In 1988, when the PLO declared an independent state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, India granted recognition immediately.
2. Post 1992:
- The balancing began with India’s decision to normalise ties with Israel in 1992, which came against the backdrop of the break-up of the Soviet Union, and massive shifts in the geopolitics of West Asia on account of the first Gulf War in 1990.
- The opening of an Indian embassy in Tel Aviv in January 1992 marked an end to the earlier stand.
3. 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”- this was a two- state solution.
- Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated this position in November 2013. So did then President Pranab Mukherjee, in October 2015.
4. Post 2017:
India dropped the references to East Jerusalem and the borders in 2017 when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Delhi. In 2018, when Mr. Modi visited Ramallah, he reaffirmed the same position, with no direct reference to the borders or Jerusalem.
A resolution titled “Ensuring respect for international human rights law and humanitarian law in Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem and in Israel” recently came up at the Human Rights Council [HRC] against the backdrop of the latest round of conflict between Israel and Gaza strip, the coastal part of the Palestinian territories.
However, India abstained from voting. Now, in response to this, Palestine has observed that such abstention suppresses human rights of “all people”.
The resolution was adopted with the vote of 24 members. Nine voted against, and 14, including India, abstained. The passing of the resolution led to the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate violation of international law by Israel.
What does this indicate?
The trend is clear – India’s decisions are based on a mature understanding and evaluation of the Israel- Palestine issues and New Delhi is following the same approach now as Israel and Palestine exchange rocket fire. India has refused to pick a side and called for de-escalation and dialogue.