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30 Oct, 2023 14:53

Indian opposition questions New Delhi’s UN vote on ‘humanitarian truce’ in Gaza

The Congress party has expressed “strong opposition” to the recent abstention on a resolution regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict
Indian opposition questions New Delhi’s UN vote on ‘humanitarian truce’ in Gaza

India’s principal opposition party, the Congress, “strongly opposed” India’s abstention on the recent UN General Assembly resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce” between Israel’s armed forces and Hamas militants in Gaza.

On Friday, India abstained in the UN General Assembly from voting on a Jordanian-drafted resolution titled ‘Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations’ as it did not make any mention of the terrorist group Hamas. The resolution called for a truce in the ongoing conflict.

Former party president Sonia Gandhi, in a column for The Hindu published on Monday, said, without naming any country, that it was “unfortunate” that influential countries are being “wholly partisan” when they should be calling for an end to the war. She further noted that the “loudest and most powerful voices” should be calling for a cessation of military activity.

The politician emphasized that the party’s long-term stance has been “to support direct negotiations for a sovereign, independent, viable and secure state of Palestine coexisting in peace with Israel.” This is also the stand taken by India’s Foreign Ministry, which on October 12 reiterated its “historic” position of supporting a two-state solution to end the conflict. 

Gandhi, however, has questioned why the reiteration from New Delhi came “only after Israel began its assault on Gaza” – given that the initial message from the country’s prime minister on the first day of the conflict was that of “solidarity” with Israel. 

Notably, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first world leaders to condemn Hamas’ unprecedented attack on Israel, which he termed as “terrorism.” He later “unequivocally condemned” terrorism in all its forms and manifestations during a phone conversation with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Modi, however, also assured continued assistance to Palestinians affected by the war and said that “civilian casualties in the ongoing conflict are a matter of serious and continuing concern.” 

India’s Foreign Minister Subhramanyam Jaishankar has emphasized New Delhi’s need to have a “consistent position” on pressing issues such as terrorism. “We take a strong position [on terrorism] because we are big victims of terrorism,” Jaishankar said at an event on Sunday. He also warned that India would lose “credibility” if it said that the terrorism affecting other countries is “not so serious.

In her column, the ex-Congress chief said that the party condemned Hamas’ attack and that violence “has no place in a decent world.” The party has repeatedly come under attack from the ruling BJP for its apparent unwillingness to condemn Hamas’ attack as “terrorism.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Congress released a statement reaffirming its support for the Palestinian cause without mentioning the attack carried out by Hamas on Israel. However, Gandhi described Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Gaza as “disproportionate” and “brutal,” adding that the Israeli government was making a “grievous error” in equating the actions of the militant group Hamas with the Palestinian people. 

The Hamas attack on Israeli settlements on October 7 left over 1,400 people dead and many injured. According to the latest data from Gaza’s Health Ministry, Israel’s strikes have killed over 8,000 Palestinians, most of whom were women and children.

Meanwhile, Shashi Tharoor, another prominent leader of the Congress, ended up in a controversy last week over his speech at a pro-Palestine rally in Kozhikode, in the southern state of Kerala, after he referred to the Hamas attackers as "terrorists." Tharoor had to clarify his stance, reaffirming his support for the Palestinian cause, while adding that the remark was taken out of context.