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Indians' connect with Palestinians 'politically dented'
By Humra Quraishi
Why did Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, come calling in the midst of this May heat? Why he skipped visiting India two months back, in February, when he was visiting Pakistan and Bangladesh? Is this visit of Mahmoud Abbas part of the balancing diplomatic tactics? Are we supposed to overlook the crucial fact that this coming July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to pay a visit to Israel and with that add weightage to India's tilt towards Israel and Israeli -American lobbies? Not to be overlooked the fact that though he will be in Israel but he will not travel next door, to Palestine. A break from the past when Indian leaders visited only Palestine or both- Israel and Palestine. In fact, this will be the first time that an Indian Prime Minister will be visiting only Israel and with that bypassing Palestine.

And with that in the backdrop Modi's meeting Mahmoud now in May is labelled as one of those diplomatic tactics to try and keep camouflages on. Balancing tactics, which like all balancing tactics, have the tendency of standing exposed. In fact, though five agreements were signed between India and Palestine this week, including India's commitment to assisting Palestine in several development projects which would include an upcoming Techno Park project in Ramalla, but missing was the very spirit, the very bonding between the people of the two countries. Today, even if a hundred projects been signed between India and Palestine, but would matter little as that people - people connect seems politically dented.

I do recall the Press Conferences of fiery Palestinian envoys to India and the emotions they'd generated. We, living in this part of the subcontinent, were more than aware of the acute miseries faced by the Palestinians because of the ruthless policies of Israel. In fact, there had come up Palestinian support forums and student groups in several of our cities and town and they were addressed by Palestinian leaders.

The envoys of Palestine and of several other Arab countries had also told me that people's anger was mounting against Israel and America, as the masses did realize that repressive policies would hit if not kill and destroy them in one way or the other. In 2005 I had met the well -known Arab academic, Clovis Maksoud- he was then Professor of International Relations and director of the Centre for Global South at the American University in Washington and before that he had served as the Arab League ambassador to India from 1961 - 66 and later ambassador to the United Nations and the US …And I had asked him exactly this: Why the Arab world was not taking on nor reacting to American- Israeli policies? Clovis was stark - 'There is a broad strategic dependence of the Arab States on the U.S, based on the false assumption that the U.S is the only power that can make Israel respond to the Palestinian issue. This dependence is flawed because Israel has flouted all international norms. Israel is the only country that has never declared its boundaries since 1967. It has not acknowledged that it's an occupying power and given itself the license to expand its settlements This has meant violating U.N resolution of the 4th Geneva Convention that do not allow any occupying power to alter the boundaries of the country it occupies…At the same time the U.S has chosen to make Israel its principal ally and this has given Israel the license to defy the UN convention with impunity.' Clovis was also of the view that America's 'occupation' of Iraq was a much planned attack. 'Yes, it was a planned attack. An attack planned much before 9/11. I would only say that September 11th delayed it. Anyway, it's been a disaster… In the aftermath of 9/11, Arab and Muslim communities were collectively held responsible for the act. Subsequently the Americans asked why the Arab and Muslims hate the US. To that I would say there is anger amongst the Arabs and Muslims against US policies but no hate as is being projected. Mind you, there is a difference between anger and hate - when you hate there is rupture of a dialogue but when in anger there is an invitation to a dialogue…Regarding the Western view that Muslims are terrorists, it is based on illiteracy!'

Throughout my conversation with Clovis Maksoud what had come across as the core factor was that people of the Arab countries had come to realize that there were vested interests of outsiders, to destroy their lands, 'the Arab governments are cautious in their approach but the people were openly talking of the invisible army of the American and Allies intruding.'

Coming back to our subcontinent, that bonding with Palestine and the Arab world went on till about the very downfall of the Arab world… And I do recall that warm hug that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gave Indira Gandhi when she had hosted an elaborate reception for him at a frilly five star hotel here in New Delhi. Besides the who's who on the political and administrative and diplomatic circuit, Indira Gandhi's office had sent invites to several middle class Muslims and also those from the various religious set-ups. Of course, those were the days when there were no security phobias. No hyped anti- Muslim statements. That was phase of Government of India's close bonding with Palestine. With that American and Israeli lobbies were kept at bay.

In fact, Jawaharlal Nehru's vision and policies vis -a vis West Asia made the entire so called 'Muslim world' tilt towards India. He was clear about his stand on the Middle East and Palestine, and with that made the Arabs and West Asians strong allies of India. Alas! Today there's no Nehru and there's little trace of the erstwhile passionate connect with the Middle East; wrecked it lies with the Right Wing cosying to the American Israeli lobbies.

(Humra Quraishi is a freelance columnist based in Delhi and is currently a visiting Professor in the Academy of Third World Studies in Jamia Milia University).

News Updated at : Thursday, May 18, 2017
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