5 Reasons Why Indias Vote Against Israel Is Not Only Right But Correct

There’s a lot of confusion about the government’s stand against Israel in the United Nations this week. Those who were dissing the Modi government for trying to block a debate on the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in Parliament a week ago are now wondering why the Narendra Modi government, in their eyes wearing its customary Dracula Halloween costume, has gone ahead and done the right thing. They can’t really show their discomfiture in public and yet, their brains are already working overtime as they wonder: So where’s the catch? There’s gotta be a catch.

On the opposite side of the fence are those who understand that by voting in support of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) – the combination of UN and HR enough to make them see a pinko pacifist rag with no connection to reality being waved in front of them – Resolution A/HRC/S-21/L.1, New Delhi has joined the hippies outside Jantar Mantar and inside Parliament and made an awful mistake. This lot believes that Narendra Modi has gone Inder Gujral. Which is worse than Inder Gujral since, at least, with the earlier prime minister, they knew a sheep in sheep’s clothing when they saw one. But nation-above-all Modi? They, too, behind the veil of rage and frustration are wondering: So where’s the catch? There’s gotta be a catch.

This catchment area with India’s response in the UN flopping about furiously is now being heavily trawled, especially by those upset with New Delhi not going refreshingly contrarian. But here are five reasons why the government is right in joining 28 other countries to demand a probe into “Israel’s offensive against Gaza”.


For those rightly bemoaning India’s decades-long knee-jerk response to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the latest action seems to be a continuation of the same-old same-old. Being part of the ‘Victim’s Club’ — where every post-colonial, under-the-mattress-rummaging Third World State goes into an uncomfortable group hug in its support for a post-colonial colonised population without a State — has irritated those who demand and expect India to break out of this rundown Hotel Levant that uses morality as fluffy cushions and anti-Americanism as a hookah.

But it is national interest which demanded that India doesn’t make a screeching Dhoom 3-kind of U-turn but take a quiet detour where the destination – supporting Palestinians – may be the same as before, but the route taken is significantly different. Last week’s wobble in Parliament that was the government’s attempt to block any debate on the issue is evidence of that. Don’t think that it didn’t matter. And don’t think Tel Aviv and the US as well as the anti-Israel lot didn’t notice Sushma Swaraj pressing the pause button long enough before letting the same-old ghazal play.

2. Money Doesn’t Talk, It Swears:

India is Israel’s biggest buyer of defence equipment. In 2012, Israel’s Defence Ministry announced that the country’s total defence exports amounted to $7 billion annually. Of this, India’s share is between $1-1.5 billion. This is not funny money. Those upset about India’s UN vote keep citing how New Delhi’s falling for ‘emotional blackmail’ will affect this supply-demand. They seem to forget that business conducted with money has a way of ironing out differences that are all too visible to those standing outside the boardrooms. India needs Israeli radar equipment for the (Israeli) Arrow missile-intercept system, sea-to-sea missiles, warning planes, communications systems and ammunition. India has paid for it over the last ten years and will continue to pay even bigger sums for its needs in the future. But for India, Israel isn’t the only market. Russia still remains India’s biggest defence equipment exporter and two suitors are now competing to sell India advanced anti-tank missiles worth about $1 billion: Israel’s Rafael Advanced Weapons Systems with their Spike anti-tank guided missile and the United States’ Raytheon and Lockheed Martin with their Javelin system.

So to cut a long story short: unlike a decade back, Israel “needs” India more than India needs Israel in this realm. And to cut a long story shorter: Israel “understands” this.

3. Friends With Benefits:

India’s “needs” Israeli expertise in fighting terrorism and security-related deals. (Also not freebies thrown in.) The horror of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks brought the two countries together in a way that is perhaps not appreciated even by those championing an India-Israel sleepover. The attack on the Chabad house and the killings of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka by Pakistani terrorists inside Nariman House enforced a mutual and ongoing project that goes beyond simple cooperative give-and-take. In this context, India’s multilateral support of the Palestinian-drafted resolution on “Ensuring Respect for International Law in The Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jersusalem” is like a friend castigating someone – among a bunch of castigators — without cancelling the vacation they’ve planned to have together in the weekend.

4. A Neat Patch of One’s Own:

The ardent desire to have lined up behind the “strong, firm and democratic” and (still) friendly United States must have been keen among those upset with India’s vote. But like the proverbial jholawalas demanding economic sanctions against Israel, the un-jholawalas demanding that the two democracies firm up a practical, remunerative and asymmetrical relationship by “showing some spine” is also based less on realpolitik and more on emotion dolled up as realpolitik.

By jumping behind Rocky each time he takes the ring against the emotional atyachar of the “anti-hegemonic” rabble, India would have lost a bit of whatever it’s gained – and hopes to continue to gain — as its “own” global place in the sun. So by standing up to a friendlier United States – and by extension Israel – in this matter that New Delhi is less “invested in”, India can actually gain some diplomatic respect and traction for being neither one of the villagers waving their pitchforks nor simply rolling over. If we can stick to our ground on something as “remote” as Gaza, who knows, we may be able to be of a little more self-interest with America and the world at large when it comes to “closer” things such as trade disputes and pow-wows on the negotiating table that will directly affect India and Indians.

5. It Feels Good to Be Right:

Feeling bad for Palestinian children and civilians being killed in Gaza by Israeli strikes is legitimate. But it has little to do with how even (especially?) countries hardwired against Israel lay things out in the open. (If Muslim West Asia and the Gulf nations were really horrified by what’s happening, they would have done a bit more than just support a resolution. They aren’t horrified. They simply have another handle to play victim-by-proxy and get the opportunity to temporarily powder over their faces that otherwise radiate with the words ‘Client State’.)

It’s Israel’s fate that by protecting its own people and unleashing an excessive show of force, it is the worst guy in a place full of bad guys. This is something it is willing to suffer. The UN Council, in it resolution, “condemns all violence against civilians wherever it occurs, including the killing of two Israeli civilians as a result of rocket fire…” If that sounds like an asymmetrical condemnation, it’s because it is an asymmetrical war. Israel will do what it thinks fit. The United States has compulsions to stand by Israel that go beyond a shared value of sunbathing and Nobel Prize winnings. Austria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Republic of Korea, Romania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Britain abstained because they need to have their cake and look angelic at the same time.

Like the other BRIC nations, India supported the resolution for reasons that suit us. But it feels all right – bordering on good — to not need to carry out incredible moral contortions to support (or fence-sit) the death of hundreds. India may not have this kind of luxury always. Here, it did the right thing.

Views expressed above are the author’s own.