India’s vote in favour of the UN Human Rights Council’s latest resolution against Israel has come in for considerable domestic criticism. This decision seems to reject conventional wisdom to support Israel, prompting fears that we have jeopardised critical areas of cooperation, including defence sales and energy exploration. The kindest explanations for the decision still call it confused, if not schizophrenic.
Such criticism, however, reflects a wilfully narrow and naïve understanding of various subjects: national interest, diplomacy, the United Nations system, and the history of Indian relations with both Israel and Palestine. The vote is, in fact, entirely consistent with Indian policy on the Palestinian question. It protects (even promotes) our national interest in the broader region, and puts only the most illusory strain on our relations with Israel.
India’s unique leverage in the region is a history of evenhanded, impartial engagement. Our diplomatic stance is calibrated to maintain this reputation. Our positions are articulated from the standpoint of an honest friend and ally, who will not eschew criticism nor flatter to deceive. Consider, for example, the balanced view evident in this excerpt from the statement made by our representative in the Human Rights Council:
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