Amid fears of more bloodletting in the Israel-Hamas war and reports that Israeli forces may invade Gaza, India looked to put its position on the issue in perspective as it sought adherence to international humanitarian law while also urging the international community to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
In a delicate balancing act, as it broke its silence finally, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) reiterated India’s support for a sovereign, independent and viable Palestine state while describing the Hamas assault on Israel that led to the present situation as terrorist attacks.
India’s response to the war, which has claimed over 1000 lives on both sides, was so far limited to PM Narendra Modi’s condemnation of the Hamas assault on Israeli civilians as terrorist strikes and a show of solidarity with Israel.“There is a universal obligation to observe international humanitarian law. There is also a global responsibility to fight the menace of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,’’ said spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
Counterterrorism is an integral part of India’s foreign policy and Modi had expressed the same sentiment in his conversation with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week. The reference though to international humanitarian law, which is applicable in conflicts and differentiates non-combatants and medical aid workers from the military, is an indication of India’s evolving position on the issue.

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The reaction – in response to media queries – followed reports that Israel will not allow any “humanitarian exception’’ to its siege of Gaza till Hamas frees all the hostages.
India’s position has been nuanced as, unlike China, it has also not called for a ceasefire because it doesn’t want to seem disapproving of Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Hamas terrorists given India’s own experience with cross-border terrorism. However, it also doesn’t want to endorse any action that might be seen as a collective punishment for the Palestinians.
When asked about India’s position on the Palestine issue, the spokesperson said India’s policy in this regard had been long standing and consistent. “India has always advocated the resumption of direct negotiations towards establishing a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders, side by side at peace with Israel,’’ said the official.

While many see India’s strategic partnership and close defence and security ties with Israel as having diminished India’s relationship with Israel, the Modi government publicly continues to maintain that India’s support for the Palestinian cause is integral to its foreign policy.
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When asked how India look at Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the US, the foreign ministry said India had been very clear that the assault by the group on Israel was a terrorist attack.
India, which provides development support to Palestine and also helps Palestinian refugees with an annual contribution to the UN of $ 5 million, has also not yet announced any humanitarian aid for the Palestinians caught in the Gaza siege.

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