India reacted cautiously to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, asserting it would take an independent stand on the issue.
“India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday.
His statement, however, did not specifically address the issue of future Jerusalem as the American-recognised capital of Israel. New Delhi in recent months has avoided direct mention of Jerusalem in its comments on the Palestine issue.
This was apparent also during the UNESCO vote on Jerusalem. India had supported the resolution sponsored by Arab countries which endorsed the Palestinian stand on Jerusalem in April 2016. However, in October 2016 and May 2017, India abstained when the resolution came up again.
With Wednesday’s announcement by Trump, the US became the first country to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over entire Jerusalem. Observers feel Trump’s decision is a major setback to the two-nation theory with Israel and Palestine living side by side. The decision would further complicate the Middle East peace process.
India enjoys close ties with both Israel and Palestine. Only last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a letter to the UN on the occasion of Palestine Solidarity Day, said India hoped for the early realisation of a sovereign, independent and united Palestinian state coexisting peacefully with Israel.
New Delhi has traditionally supported the Palestinian cause even as it opened diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992. Even at the height of tensions in the Middle East, India balanced ties with Arab countries where it has a sizeable diaspora presence and commercial interests.
However, since the NDA government assumed office in May 2014, India-Israel ties have gone from strength to strength, with PM Modi paying a stand-alone visit to the Jewish nation in July this year. But India made sure that its ties with the Arab world remain unaffected by hosting Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas and reaffirming its commitment to the Palestinian cause.
The US announcement has come at a time when India is gearing up for a high-profile visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to this country in January, marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Arab world will obviously keep a close eye on the visit.