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December 24, 2014 3:53 pm

Speculation Growing Over India’s Potential Pro-Israel Shift at UN

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is considering a major shift in his country's policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Photo: Twitter

Speculation that India may end a half-century long pattern of voting against Israel at UN bodies is reaching a feverish pitch, following reports this week that the Palestinians can no longer automatically count on New Delhi’s support.

In what The Hindu newspaper described as a potential “tectonic shift in the country’s foreign policy,” the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the head of the Hindu nationalist BJP party which triumphed in India’s election last May, is deliberating over whether to take a more even-handed stance towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Modi visited Israel in 2006 and enjoys a warm relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Two sources within the government confirmed to The Hindu that the change, which will be a fundamental departure from India’s support to the cause of a Palestinian state, was under consideration.

“Like other foreign policy issues, the Modi government is looking at India’s voting record at the United Nations on the Palestinian issue,” a government source told The Hindu. The change only needs an administrative nod, the second source said.

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“India’s stance at the UN has been an irritant in Indo-Israeli relations, with Tel Aviv frustrated that close bonds had not resulted in any change in the stance on Palestine,” the paper noted.

Leading American columnist Seth Lipsky said in an opinion piece for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that “If India follows through at the United Nations, it would be a once-unimaginable development, at least for those of us who covered the debates on the Third World during the Cold War.

“Fidel Castro of Cuba was one of the Non-Aligned Movement’s tribunes, and Palestine has been a member of the movement since 1976,” Lipsky wrote. “India, by virtue of its vast size and the liveliness of its multi-party democracy and free press, was by far its most credible leading member. It had outsized prestige in the decolonizing world because of Gandhi and the way it gained independence from Britain. But since the collapse of the Soviet regime, the Non-Aligned Movement has lacked a logical raison d’etre. India’s shift on Palestine could spell its doom.”

Lipsky concluded, “From here in New York, however, the bilateral breakthrough that is taking place between Israel and India appears less important than the big picture. It is a reminder that in a time of American retreat and growing hostility in Europe, there are other options for Israel.”

A UN observer in Geneva was less sanguine about the prospects of a change in a conversation with The Algemeiner, during which he pointed out that there are many countries, among them China, that have close economic and trade ties with Israel, yet vote against the Jewish state at the UN.

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