(The article was originally published in Indian Express on November 04, 2023 as a part of Dr Madhav’s column titled ‘Ram Rajya’. Views expressed are personal.)
India’s abstention at the UN over the Gaza-related resolution raised some eyebrows especially since it despatched humanitarian aid to the region around the same time. An Indian Air Force C-17 transport aircraft took off for El-Arish International Airport in Egypt with humanitarian relief materials of “nearly 6.5 tons of medical aid and 32 tons of disaster relief material” that included life-saving medicines, surgical items, tents, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, sanitary utilities, water purification tablets and other items of daily need.
Some were surprised that a resolution with a similar objective was not supported by India. India decided to abstain from voting when the resolution, moved by Jordan and dozens of other Arab nations, was put to vote last Friday. The resolution secured 121 votes in favour and 14 against, while 44 countries abstained. Although India continues to stand by the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict and is actively extending humanitarian aid to Gaza, its decision to abstain was based on certain core principles that included its zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism.
Yojana Patel, India’s deputy representative at the UN, told the General Assembly in her Explanation of Vote (EoV) address that the terror attacks in Israel on October 7 were “shocking and deserve condemnation”. She also called for “immediate and unconditional release” of hostages. “Let us keep aside differences, unite and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism,” Patel appealed to the Assembly. Expressing concern over the ongoing conflict in Gaza in which civilians, “especially women and children”, are paying with their lives, she welcomed the de-escalation efforts and humanitarian assistance by the international community and underscored that “India too has contributed to this effort”.
Unfortunately, the UN resolution doesn’t have any categorical reference to the terror attack of Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Israeli soil that resulted in more than 1,400 civilian deaths and the abduction of more than 200 Israelis as hostages.
During the debate, a sentence condemning “acts of terrorism and indiscriminate attacks” was added without mentioning Hamas or Islamic Jihad by name. Canada moved an amendment calling the resolution to “unequivocally reject and condemn the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on 7 October 2023 and the taking of hostages”. It also demanded the “safety, well-being, and humane treatment of the hostages.” India supported that amendment. However, it received only 88 votes in favour and 55 against, with 23 abstentions. It failed to breach the two-thirds bar.
Earlier, the US moved a draft resolution at the Security Council meeting that could have secured the support of countries like India. It unequivocally condemned the heinous terrorist attack by Hamas and other terrorist groups and reaffirmed the inherent right of all States to “individual and collective self-defence”. It also insisted that in responding to terrorist attacks, member states must fully comply with all their obligations under international law. That meant Israel’s obligation to ensure the safety of civilians in Gaza and the responsibility of the other member countries to work towards the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining hostages and taking all measures “to allow the full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access”. However, the resolution was vetoed by China and Russia and never reached the UNGA.
The UN resolution’s silence on Hamas and its description of Israel as an “occupying power” and demand that Israel should rescind its order asking civilians in North Gaza to move to the South is baffling. It is well-known that Hamas operates out of civilian areas and uses civilians as human shields. It refuses to recognise the right of Israel to exist as a nation.
The Hamas Covenant or Charter issued in August 1988 categorically states its mission as establishing an Islamic caliphate in the entire Palestine. It declared in 2017 in an amended charter that there is no alternative to “full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.” It makes sweeping allegations against the Jews insisting that they were behind everything that happened in the last century.
“They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it,”Article 22 of the Hamas Charter insinuates.
Its ultimate threat was that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam invalidates it, just as it invalidated others before it″.
It is this enemy that Israel is fighting against. It is a battle for survival as far as Israel is concerned. One may not forget that Israel has a 21 per cent Arab population on its territory and some of those fell victim to Hamas terror attack on October 7.
Hamas is no friend of peace-loving Palestinians either. It constantly undermined the authority of Mohammad Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, which used to control both the West Bank and Gaza Strip until 2005. Hamas used its brute force to capture power in Gaza municipal body elections in 2005 and took full control of the Strip a year later in 2006. Since then, there have been no elections in Gaza and the people live under the draconian oppression of Hamas.
India has been a victim of terrorism for decades. It understands the tactics of terror outfits like Hamas and the intricacies of urban warfare, especially the war on terrorists who make populations their shields. Hence, our warning at the UN that the world “should not buy into any justification of terror acts” since terrorism is a “malignancy and knows no borders, nationality, or race”.