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India sticks to tradition on Gaza vote

New Delhi, July 23: India voted alongside 28 other nations against Israel’s military assaults in the Gaza strip in a late evening vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva amid a domestic political debate on whether the Narendra Modi government was diluting New Delhi’s traditional support for Palestine.

The UN human rights body resolved to launch an independent investigation into allegations of “war crimes” by Israeli forces in the Palestinian Occupied territories, including Gaza and East Jerusalem.

The vote, close to midnight in India, saw clear geographical divisions that have largely withstood time, from the creation of Israel in 1948 till now. Of the 47 members on the human rights council, almost all Asian, African and Latin American nations voted in support of the resolution mooted by the Arab League and an Iran-led Non Aligned Movement.

These included China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and Saudi Arabia and 20 other nations.

A total of 17 nations on the human rights council abstained — every European nation on the panel, South Korea, Japan and Gabon.

Only the US -- traditionally Israel's strongest ally — voted against the resolution.

India’s vote kept up a tradition New Delhi has followed since independence in 1947 — of always voting in favour of Palestine at UN resolutions.

“We have never even abstained, and today we’ve demonstrated what we’ve said — that there’s no change in our foreign policy when it comes to Palestine,” a senior official involved in formulating India’s position at the UN told The Telegraph.

Israel criticised the vote, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the resolution a “travesty that should be rejected”.

The vote came after days of hectic diplomatic lobbying by both Israel and the supporters of Palestine with India and other nations that have close ties with both sides — and could so swing any critical UN resolution.

Israel diplomats have met BJP leaders and have held at least two meetings with Indian officials in South Block.

Barring a statement from the foreign office expressing “concern” at the violence in Gaza, India, till this Monday, had not spoken on the Israel attacks in the occupied territories that have killed over 600 civilians in two weeks.

When Opposition leaders sought a discussion in Parliament on the violence, the government initially appeared reluctant.

Accused of diluting India’s traditional support to the Palestinian struggle, the government referred to a statement at the Brics summit in Brazil earlier this month. But that statement, co-signed by Prime Minister Modi, only refers to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories -- and is quiet on the ongoing violence.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj finally presented her government’s perspective on the violence in Parliament this Monday, insisting that India’s foreign policy on Palestine had not changed even marginally with the change in government.


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