Watch | Israel-Hamas | As conflict spreads, where does India stand?

Watch | Israel-Hamas | As conflict spreads, where does India stand?

In this episode of Worldview, we discuss where India stands four months after the Israel-Gaza conflict began 

We return to the conflict in Gaza this week- where despite talks for another ceasefire, the bombardment of Gaza by Israeli Defence Forces who are on the ground in the territory continued for a fourth month. The top 5 statistics of the devastation:

  1. Since October 7, when 1,200 were killed in a series of brutal terror attacks in Israel one morning- Israel’s reprisal has left 26,500 people in Gaza dead, 65,000 injured or missing
  2. 1.9 million people of 85% of Gaza’s population is internally displaced- mostly in refugee shelters, 80 per cent of the labour force is currently unemployed
  3. UNOSAT images show that by the end of November 2023- 37,379 buildings had been damaged- that’s 18% of all structures- among them hospitals, schools, universities. At Davos, an official said just to rebuild houses will cost more than $15 billion
  4. In 2023, GDP per capita in Gaza shrank by 26 per cent and stands at one third of its peak in 2005, with 80 per cent of this loss occurring since 7 October
  5. UNCTAD estimates that even assuming that the military operation ends immediately, reconstruction starts straight away and GDP growth goes to 10 per cent, the GDP per capita of Gaza will return to its 2022 level by 2028 and to its 2006 levels in 2035

From the initial violence- and the initial response by Israel, the conflict has moved in many ways, many of which have had an impact on India

  1. The initial global focus on the War on terrorism shifted rapidly to Civilian casualties in Gaza- while India abstained from one resolution calling for a ceasefire in October, it reverted to its old stand on Palestine by December, and voted for a resolution along with 152 nations calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire
  2. Houthi attacks from Yemen on Israel by missile drones, have grown into a blockade of the Red Sea- the Indian Navy is being called in to help rescue ships- and has stationed at least a dozen warships east of the Red Sea. In addition- the break between Israel and Arab states, as well as the Red Sea crisis has led to a pause on two major Indian initiatives- the I2U2, as well as the IMEC- india Middle East Corridor launched during the G20
  3. The conflict has moved across the region- take a look at the map- Israeli strikes on Lebanon, Iran-backed Houthis targeting Israel, terror bombing in Iran, Iran’s missile strikes on Iraq and Pakistan, US-UK strikes on Yemen, Israel strike on Iranian officers in Syria, and then a drone strike that killed US soldiers in Jordan- With regional instability inching closer to India, EAM Jaishankar visited Tehran for talks
  4. The Global South has become increasingly critical of Israel The International Court of Justice last week handed down an initial ruling on South Africa’s demand that Israel be tried for Genocide. While the court didn’t accept the plea that it should call for an immediate ceasefire, it criticized Israeli ministers for comments
  5. Meanwhile Israel has launched a campaign against the UN agency in Palestine UNRWA- accusing 190 of its 13,000 employees of direct involvement with terror groups and the October 7 attacks, identifying 11. The UN terminated contracts, and ordered an inquiry, but a majority of UNRWA funders- US, Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia, Japan, Austria and Romania have frozen funding. Here’s what the MEA said- remember India has been providing UNRWA $5million a year, and sent its latest tranche in December.

On the UNRWA, India is an important development partner of Palestine. We have been extending assistance to them, both bilaterally and through the United Nations. But at the same time, we have a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism. And in this regard, we are deeply concerned at the allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in October 7 terror attacks. We also welcome the investigations launched by the United Nations in this regard.”- MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal

Where exactly does India stand:

  1. New Delhi has made the point on zero tolerance to terrorism, and called Oct 7 a terror attack, but not banned Hamas as a terror organisation so far
  2. After what seemed like the initial shift towards Israel at the UNGA- India has moved back to its traditional positions on supporting Palestine and criticizing Israeli settlements
  3. India has expressed sympathy for Palestinians but is also preparing to send more than 50,000 labourers to fill construction jobs where Israel has cancelled Palestinian entry permits- one concern- the impact on 8 million expats in the rest of the Gulf region
  4. India hasn’t called on Israel directly for a ceasefire, but apart from the UNGA resolution, was part of a very strong NAM resolution last month – the Kampala Declaration that condemned Israel
  5. India isn’t mediating in the crisis, but is believed to pass on messages from one side to the other, as it has done during the Ukraine war

WV Take:

The unprecedented destruction of Gaza over the past four months has pushed India back on to the tightrope walk between Israel and Palestine. There is too much at stake in the outcomes of the conflict- including India’s ties with the rest of the region, the future of its major infrastructure corridors and the source of Indian energy and military hardware, for it to be seen coming down on one side or the other.

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