Netanyahu and Modi.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In what would be a huge diplomatic coup for Israel, India is considering changing its automatic support for the Palestinians at the UN and abstaining on those votes, according to a report in The Hindu daily.
The paper on Sunday cited two Indian government sources as saying that a change in India’s voting pattern was being considered, something the report said would be tantamount to a “tectonic shift” in the country’s foreign policy.
“Like other foreign policy issues, the Modi government is looking at India’s voting record at the United Nations on the Palestinian issue,” the paper quoted one source as saying. The change only needs an administrative nod, a second source was quoted as saying.
The election as prime minister of Narendra Modi from the Hindu nationalist BJP party earlier this year has led to a significant uptick in political ties between India and Israel.
Jerusalem has long been irritated by India’s reflexive anti-Israel voting pattern at the UN, saying this was not the way friends behave toward one another. At the same time, diplomatic officials have said that Jerusalem is well aware that voting against Israel at the UN has historically been a way for New Delhi to appease its huge Muslim population unhappy with the country’s’ burgeoning ties with the Jewish state.
The report in The Hindu
came the same day that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decrying in the weekly cabinet meeting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment rife in parts of Europe, said Israel was working to “advance and develop new alliances and partnerships
, for example with countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa and other places in the world.”
Israeli diplomatic officials could not confirm the report that the Indian government was weighing a change in its voting pattern at the UN. There is speculation that India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj will come to Israel next month, and if that is the case then this issue is surely one that would be raised.
Netanyahu met with Modi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in September, and said the “sky’s the limit” in Israeli-Indian ties. This was the first meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries in 11 years.
A significant upgrade in the relations was largely expected after Modi – who visited Israel in 2006 as the chief minister in the western state of Gujarat – won the elections in the spring. Modi knows Israel, appreciates its economic success and is well aware of what it can offer, beyond the traditional realm of diamonds and military hardware. When he was the chief minister in Gujarat, trade ties expanded into the realms of solar power, water management and pharmaceuticals.
Modi’s appointment of Swaraj as foreign minister was welcomed in Jerusalem, since she served from 2006 to 2009 as chairwoman of the Indo-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group, and visited the country in 2008, praising Israel at the time for proving a “reliable partner” in India’s 1999 war with Pakistan.
During Operation Protective Edge last summer, the Modi government pushed back against a move to condemn Israel in parliament, and Jerusalem was – for the most part – satisfied with the public position New Delhi took during the campaign.
The one major exception was India’s vote in UN Human Rights Council in favor of sending a probe to investigate the Gaza operation.
On Friday, Modi posted a twitter message, in both Hebrew and English, that read, “wishing my Jewish friends a Happy Hanukka! May this Festival of Lights and the festive season ring in peace, hope and well-being for all.”
Netanyahu responded with a tweet in Hindi and English thanking Modi – “on behalf of all the people of the nation of Israel” – for his Hanukka greeting.