PM Modi to skip BRICS-Plus virtual meet on Israel-Hamas conflict today, EAM Jaishankar to ...

PM Modi to skip BRICS-Plus virtual meet on Israel-Hamas conflict today, EAM Jaishankar to attend instead

New Delhi has not so far called on Israel for a ceasefire, in contrast to stance by South Africa and other BRICS countries

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend November 21 virtual summit of the “BRICS-Plus” grouping that is being held to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict, officials confirmed, adding that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar would join the event instead. While the Prime Minister has declined attending the summit due to other commitments including campaigning for ongoing State Assembly elections in Rajasthan, the decision to miss appearing with other leaders from the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa grouping also indicates New Delhi’s discomfort with deliberations that would be critical of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Unlike all other countries in the grouping, India has taken a stand that is closer to that of U.S. and other western countries, by not demanding a ceasefire by Israeli forces, and abstaining at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote on a resolution that called for a ceasefire, that all other BRICS-Plus members voted for. Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazil President Lula Da Silva are expected to attend the summit, as is UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The BRICS Plus meeting, to be held at 6.30 p.m. today, comes just a day ahead of PM Modi hosting the G20 Virtual summit, and all eyes will be on references to the Israel-Hamas conflict in that grouping as well.

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The BRICS-plus meeting, an ‘Extraordinary Joint Meeting on the Middle East situation’, convened by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, will also include the soon-to-be inducted new members of the BRICS grouping that include Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and UAE. The meeting comes as South Africa and Israel stepped up a diplomatic war, with the South African government formally referring Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be investigated for alleged “war crimes” over its bombardment of the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the October 7 Hamas terror attacks.

After South Africa recalled all its diplomats from Tel Aviv, and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) supported a motion in Parliament calling for the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria to be shut down, Israel recalled its Ambassador to South Africa for “consultations” on Monday citing the “latest statements”.  In contrast, India’s strongest comment by PM Modi thus far, made at the Voice of Global South last week was a “strong condemnation” of civilian deaths, and a call for an emphasis on “restraint, dialogue and diplomacy”.

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The BRICS meeting also comes amidst moves by various members of the BRICS grouping to build pressure on the UN Security Council P-5 to pass a resolution that calls for a complete halt in bombing Gaza. Last week, the UNSC passed a resolution that called for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” and the release of hostages, but not for a ceasefire outright. Foreign Ministers of the Arab League and Organisation for Islamic Cooperation including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia and Jordan met in Beijing with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, calling for a halt in hostilities that have led to more than 12,000 people in Gaza, a third of them children, dead and about 1.7 million rendered homeless as hospitals and schools are amongst buildings bombed.

Israel, that lost about 1,200 citizens in the October 7 attacks, says it is seeking out Hamas command and control centres and a return of about 240 hostages that are still believed to be in Hamas custody.

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