Counter Opinion! Why India didn’t vote in favor of Israel?

There’s a lot of opposition to India not voting in favor of Israel. Most of this is unfounded and hasty. Many have gone to the extent of saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is ‘sucking up’ to the Palestinians, and that he is doing nothing different from his predecessors.

The irony is that these same people were hailing Prime Minister Modi when he visited Israel. And now suddenly, he’s no different from the rest. Also, before I begin to explain the possible reasons why India voted against, I’d like to remind these odd-even supporters that for the first time in 2015 under Prime Minister Modi India abstained from voting against Israel on the issue of its ‘war crimes’. Israel had even thanked India for this.

Now, I’m not saying I’m right, but I wish people looked at things with a broader perspective. These people should remember that in foreign policy and geopolitical matters there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends, the only constant is self-interest and every nation searches for that.

• First and foremost, India not voting in favor doesn’t mean India is against Israel, just like when Prime Minister Modi visited Israel it didn’t mean India was against the Arab world. Each move is to be seen in a context, and such a vote can’t be taken at face value.
• Another point to start off is that diplomacy is what happens behind closed doors, not on national television. Hence, it is but near impossible that India didn’t convey its position to Israel beforehand and that Israel didn’t understand the situation India finds itself in. People may not understand, but Israel sure does.
• Prime Minister Modi visited Israel this year that sent the Arab world into a dizzy as he was the first Indian prime minister to do so. That was the single biggest boost to Indo-Israel ties. Next January, Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming to India. Now imagine that if amidst these two major events in a span of less than a year had India also voted in favor then how severely it would have affected our ties with many nations.
• It would have firmly set us in the US camp, something which India can’t afford let alone from an Arab perspective but even from a Russian perspective. India’s support would’ve not only been seen as pro-Israel but primarily as pro-US because this whole thing has been pushed by the US. Just think – would Russia have taken it positively seeing that New Delhi is almost working on the whims of Washington?
• What people fail to understand is that with Palestine come a host of other nations who’re very crucial to India, like Iran, Saudi Arabia or the UAE. It’s important to understand that this not just about Palestine. Had it only been about Palestine India would’ve supported Israel. But the other nations who attach importance to Palestine are very important to India economically, militarily and most importantly geopolitically.
• India’s biggest threats are Pakistan and China who need to be effectively countered. Take Iran for example. With the Chabahar Port, India has negated Pakistan-China’s Gwadar Port. China may well use this port for military purposes in the future, and it will be then that the Chabahar Port will be the only effective counter India will have. But what if Iran disagrees to cooperate then?
• Another area where Iran is a huge player for India is the International North South Trade Corridor (INSTC) that runs from Mumbai, through Iran, to Russia and Central Europe. This is said to be a significant counter to China’s OBOR. Hence, angering Iran is neither in India’s short-term nor long-term interests, at least for now.
• Iran is having rising trouble with Pakistan and this makes it India’s perfect ally. Harm ties with Iran and you drastically risk losing support of probably your most important friend geopolitically in today’s times. China will swoop in to replace India and end up completely surrounding us. Not to forget that we depend for oil on Iran and the Middle East. A vote in favor of Israel could well have angered Iran.
• India wants to be an arms exporter that’ll help develop our indigenous defence industry and will create numerous jobs. One nation that is interested in greatly expanding defence ties with India is Saudi Arabia. It is interested in buying the BrahMos missile. It also wants to set up a joint venture to manufacture weapons in Saudi. For the first time, it is sending a team of 10 nationals to India for training to become officers at the National Defence Academy (NDA) next year. Not to forget Saudi is investing billions of dollars in India.
• The UAE may also purchase the Astra which is a 70-km range air-to-air missile. UAE too is investing heavily in India. Jordan is interested in buying the Kamov 226 T multi-utility helicopters to be built by India-Russia. It may also buy other hardware developed by the DRDO. Voting in favor could have jeopardized our rising military exports and economic ties.
• One has got to understand that India has a LOT more at stake here. Israel supports India on Kashmir because it has no ties with Pakistan. It doesn’t even have an embassy in Pakistan, and so, it does not have to weigh its gains and losses. On the other hand India has to do so at the time of such a vote because the nations tied to the Palestine cause have massive relevance for India.
• Economically, militarily and geopolitically India has a lot to gain by maintaining ties with the Arab world. On the contrary, Israel has no interests in Pakistan which is why it’s easier for Israel to support India. As Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain wrote today in one of his tweets – Far easier for Israel to vote for India than for India to vote for Israel.
• I’m surprised at some people saying, “We need Israel! What do we get out of Palestine?” True, we need Israel, and yes, maybe we don’t get much from Palestine. But we forget that Israel needs India equally, and that we have a lot to get from the nations supporting Palestine.
• India desired to obtain technology for the manufacture of Heron TP armed drones but it received a setback when the Israeli ministry of defense imposed several restrictions on their export. Does that mean our ties were soured? No. Israel thought that that was a move in its interests, and so be it.
• Remember this phrase Prime Minister Netanyahu had used when Prime Minister Modi had visited Israel? – “Ours is a partnership made in heaven.” He’d used the same phrase in front of Jinping for Israel-China a few months back. Why? Because he has to balance ties. India also has to do the same.
• Israel was silent on Doklam unlike Japan who openly backed us. Why? Because again, Israel has to balance ties with both India and China. That’s exactly what India is doing now.
• Even US’ allies like Japan, South Korea, the UK and many NATO nations haven’t voted in favor. But amidst all these countries, possibly no nation has to balance ties and sentiments more than India has to.
• To summarize – * India has to balance crucial ties amongst many countries. * India-Israel surely had backdoor diplomacy before this vote was made where India’s stand was conveyed. * Emotions shouldn’t influence such matters; eventually what matters for every country is personal interest. * Foreign policy isn’t one-dimensional or a zero sum game. * Our ties with Israel are possibly on an all-time high and will continue to improve.

Vinayak Jain