India Stays Consistent: Votes Against US Decision on Jerusalem
Palestinian women chant slogans and hold flags during a demonstration near the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s old city.
Palestinian women chant slogans and hold flags during a demonstration near the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s old city.(Photo Courtesy: AP)

India Stays Consistent: Votes Against US Decision on Jerusalem

Abandoned by military allies and much of the rest of the world – including India – the United States stood isolated on Thursday, 21 December, when the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to declare a recent US decision on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “null and void.”

No country from G-7, G-20, NATO or Five Eyes (the strongest intelligence alliance of the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain) voted with the US. Canada and Australia abstained, as did some newer members of NATO.

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Not American Dimplomacy’s Finest Hour

In Asia, Japan and South Korea – both military allies – voted against the US. All BRICS countries also went against Washington on the question of Jerusalem, showing that no group, no alliance and no bloc was comfortable with President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to preemptively declare the holy city as Israel’s capital.

It wasn’t American diplomacy’s finest hour or US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s, whose threats and over-the-top language to berate countries left diplomats embarrassed. She said, “The US will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack.” She vowed to “take names” of countries that that went against the US.

It would be a long list of names since 128 countries voted “yes” to denounce the US decision and 35 abstained. And 21 countries remained absent. Only eight countries voted “no” with the US, including Israel, Palau, Togo, Nauru and Guatemala.

Indications of how India would vote came the day Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, when the official spokesman clearly said India’s stand on issues was independent of decisions by “third countries.”

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India’s Vote

India’s vote is consistent with its historic support for the Palestinian cause going back to before India’s own independence.

New Delhi’s position was most recently articulated by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj when she told the NAM ministerial meeting on Palestine held on the sidelines of the last UNGA in September that India believes “in an early negotiated solution between Israel and Palestine based on mutual recognition and security arrangements.”

Significantly, her statement came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in July – the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister – which showed that India would not favour one side over the other on key questions of peace process.

Given the history, India’s vote on Thursday should have come as no surprise, UN observers said. “The whole world is not for this change. Germany, France, the UK… 20 of the 27 members of NATO have voted ‘yes.’ Are we supposed to be more allied than NATO?” an Indian observer asked.

Some Indian analysts on Twitter criticised India’s vote, with one academic calling it “stupid” because it put India on the side of China and Pakistan and against Israel and the US. Another analyst said New Delhi should have been with the US and Israel because that’s where its interests lie. Besides, the Arabs are hypocritical on Palestine, Nitin Pai of the Takshashila Institution said.

An academic quoted by a respected newspaper had recommended that India should “stay absent” during the vote, an acutely embarrassing suggestion for a large country like India.

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What India’s vote shows is that it can be forthright about its ties with Israel and also maintain a consistent position on Palestine.

In this case, an overwhelming majority, including US allies and particularly those who have real stakes in the Middle East, were all on one side. In fact, sponsors of the resolution in both the Security Council and the General Assembly were key Arab allies of the US – Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The resolution is non-binding but it expresses the sentiment of the majority.

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