'Wishy-washy' on Jerusalem

Guarded indian approach draws fire

By Anita Joshua and Muzaffar Raina
  • Published 8.12.17
A Palestinian clashes with Israeli troops in West Bank on Thursday. (AP)

New Delhi/Srinagar: India, the first non-Arab country to recognise Palestinian statehood in 1988, has adopted a guarded position compared to much of the international community that has come out unequivocally against President Donald Trump's decision to shift the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

"India's position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country," external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to questions on New Delhi's position on the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the US.

There was no mention of India's 50-year-old stated position that East Jerusalem - occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 - would be the capital of the Palestinian state or the two-state solution that much of the world is committed to.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah described India's stand as "wishy-washy drivel".

The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said the US decision would have drawn "strong condemnation from India" in the past. "Now all you get is some wishy-washy drivel about India's position determined by our self-interest & not what other countries do. There was a time India stood for something," Abdullah said.

The US decision has a bearing on the Valley. Both pro-India and pro-Azadi groups have denounced the move and separatists have called for protests on Friday.

Over the past few months, India has been studiously avoiding mention of East Jerusalem in Palestine-related statements. rime Minister Narendra Modi did not refer to East Jerusalem during his high-on-optics Israel visit this summer.

India's ambivalent position stood out not just because of New Delhi's traditional advocacy of the Palestinian cause but also in comparison to the sharp reactions Trump's decision has evoked both in the Arab world and elsewhere, including Russia, the UK, France, Germany, China, the European Union and the UN.

The government's position came in for sharp criticism from the CPM.

"Unlike the worldwide opposition to this move, the official spokesman of the ministry of external affairs has scrupulously refused to criticise the US decision. This shows the extent of servility of the Modi regime to the United States,'' the CPM politburo said in a statement.

The party said the government should disapprove the move in the strongest terms as it goes against India's longstanding commitment to the Palestinian cause.

Eight members of the UN Security Council, including P-5 countries France and the UK, have asked for a special meeting to discuss Trump's announcement. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres is expected to speak on Friday on the move that runs contrary to the UNSC Resolution 478 adopted on August 20, 1980.

Guterres has already said that "there is no alternative to the two-state solution: two states living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition -- with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestine".