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June 14, 2018 5:02 pm

Communist Indian Student Group Endorses BDS, Targets Hewlett Packard

avatar by Shiri Moshe

Members of the Students’ Federation of India. Photo: SFI/Facebook.

The student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which claims four million members, has endorsed the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

In a meeting of its Central Committee on Saturday, the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) voted to blacklist Hewlett-Packard “in solidarity with Palestine and to put pressure on Israel for the suffering human beings of Palestine.”

HP — which split in 2015 into the companies HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise — has been a frequent target of the BDS campaign for its work with the Israeli government and military. Most recently, the Dublin City Council agreed to support BDS and boycott the American firms in April, while a nearly identical motion was adopted by the Galway City Council on Monday.

Apoorva Gautam, the South Asia coordinator for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, said SFI’s decision could lead to revenue losses.

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“Hewlett Packard companies now risk losing over 4 million potential clients in India because of their complicity in Israel’s gross violations of Palestinian human rights,” she warned.

“Given that the cheapest HP laptop in India costs about $300, this means that HP may be losing a potential student market of over $120 million,” Gautam continued. “This is enormously significant.”

Vikram Singh, SFI’s general secretary, indicated the group would continue advocating on behalf of the BDS campaign in Indian colleges and universities, including by lobbying administrators.

HP leads in traditional PC sales in India, accounting for nearly 30 percent of market share in 2017, the International Data Corporation reported. Dell, which maintains an R&D center in Israel, came in second with about 20 percent of market share.

The BDS campaign has seen limited successes in India, including an endorsement by the farming and agricultural wing of the country’s Communist Party in October. Supporters say the movement advocates for human rights, but critics accuse it of opposing the Jewish state’s continued existence

New Delhi and Jerusalem have enjoyed markedly closer relations since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. When the countries marked 25 years of diplomatic ties last year, Modi celebrated the occasion with a trip to the Jewish state in July — the first-ever by a holder of his office.

Israeli exports to India rose by approximately 60 percent over the past decade, according to figures from Israel’s Economy Ministry, while bilateral trade between the two nations totaled over $4 billion in 2016.

In November, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore — a leading business school in the country — opened a dedicated Israel Center that aims to serve as a focal point of academic cooperation between the two nations.

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