New Delhi attempts a tightrope walk between support for Israel and sentiments of the Arab nations
Dr. Manan Dwivedi | October 16, 2023
The entire Israel-Palestine quagmire can be perceived through the vivid lens of the Political Contest Model where in the quintessential nation-state actor is pitted against the non-state actor in a volatile conflict scenario. The model refers to the fact that the state actor is accoutered with enough pelf and resources along with relevant firepower while the non-state actor is bereft of resources and firepower to match the might of the state. The non-state or terrorist actor or the insurgent is left with a hard choice to attain a spectacular effect wherein the comity of states can take notice of the conflict and the “affronts” being made by the state actor. As the non-state terrorists face a scarcity of publicity and propaganda, so they have to indulge in a larger-than-life public opinion blitzkrieg, which, they hope, will popularize the insurgent narrative in the mainstream discussions and the larger public sphere. The same is true of Hamas, based in Gaza strip, and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and Beirut.
The 2023 altercation between Tel Aviv and Hamas is no frail man’s matter. It’s not a conflict or cannot be relegated to the backburner as a kind of ordinary terror attack. It is, in the words of president Joe Biden and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an actual full-fledged war. New Delhi, too, has expressed solidarity with the besieged Israeli nation registering and communicating to Tel Aviv the severity of the situation. What the Indian civil society relates to is the invincibility of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the attendant intelligence agency, Mossad. Prime minister Narendra Modi has made a special effort with external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and Team MEA in order to spawn a matrix of alliances in the always-on-the-ferment West Asia. India began its initiation of public diplomacy with the US-Taliban talks in Qatar, Doha, and played a proactive role in the light of the American withdrawal from Kabul. India has signed valuable treaties with nations such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates along with being a steady partner of Iran for the last few years.
In the light of the current war by the Hamas group, India has eschewed its neutral position in favour of the nation state of Israel. India initiated diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv in 1992 and since then avid cooperation has been attempted between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. Various spheres of cooperation and collaboration have been witnessed, ranging from irrigation and agriculture techniques to relentless defence cooperation between the two allied nations. India with the associational linkages with Israel, UAE and United States, has attempted a Quad-like security and sustainable community, on the lines of the Quad in the Asia Pacific. India and US might be perturbed that the larger and comprehensive deal between Israel and Riyadh might be derailed in the name of the larger Arab sentiment in Saudi Arabia as the war might drag on for a larger time period, marring avenues for diplomacy involving actors such as New Delhi too.
Secretary of state Antony Blinken happens to be a concerned, angry and worrisome official of the American administration. “Hamas has shown itself to be an enemy of civilisation. The massacring of young people in an outdoor music festival, the butchering of entire families, the murder of parents in front of their children and the murder of children in front of their parents. The burning of people alive. The beheadings, the kidnappings of a young boy – not only kidnapped – molested, hurt, attacked, and the sickening display of celebrating these horrors the celebration and glorification of evil," he said. "President Biden was absolutely correct in calling this 'sheer evil’.” The Americans officials of the of the order of national security advisor, Jack Sullivan, and defence secretary, Jack Austin, also have condemned the Hamas’s attack into the Israeli settlements.
New Delhi has always been at the forefront of the battle against terrorism, whether it be the nearer home, cross-border terrorism in Kashmir or the scourge of international terrorism. And in the light of the terror attack by Hamas too, India has condemned it as fundamental breach of peace and a craven terrorist attack on Israel. New Delhi has always strived on the global podium for arriving at a delineated definition of terrorism which has eluded the comity of nations despite nations such as US, India and Israel suffering from the scourge of global and cross-border terrorism. Akin to the Russia-Ukraine war, India is once again attempting a tightrope walking manoeuvre between the sentiments of the Arab nations with whom it has amenable and amicable partnerships and the Israel led coalition with America looking after the back of Israel’s massive military response. The million dollar questions are: When does Hezbollah from Lebanon join the fray? Are we going to witness a war much larger and bloodier than the 2009 and 2014 conflicts in West Bank and Gaza strip?
Dr. Dwivedi is Faculty, IR and IO, Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA).
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