Amid a perceptible shift in India’s Middle East policy, Palestine has expressed concern at India’s abstention during a vote at the UN Human Rights Council that resulted in the setting up of an inquiry into rights violations during the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.
Palestine’s concerns were conveyed by foreign minister Riad Malki in a letter sent to his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on May 30. The letter, accessed by Hindustan Times, stated that India’s abstention during the vote on May 27 “stifles the important work of Human Rights Council at advancing human rights for all peoples, including those of the Palestinian people”.
The development comes against the backdrop of India dropping its traditional reference to support for the “just Palestinian cause” in at least three recent statements at the UN Security Council, General Assembly and Human Rights Council. The statements, however, retained the usual reference to a two-state solution to be achieved through direct negotiations to ensure lasting peace between the people of Israel and Palestine.
Malki’s unusually strongly worded letter stated: “I write to express our concern by the position taken by Republic of India in the Human Rights Council 30th special session of 27 May 2021, on the seminal resolution [titled] ‘Ensuring respect for international human rights law and humanitarian law in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel’.”
It added, “Republic of India missed an opportunity to join the international community at this turning point, both crucial and long overdue, on the path to accountability, justice, and peace.”
Following the adoption of the resolution, presented by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Palestinian delegation, by 24 votes, the Human Rights Council established an international commission of inquiry into “violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law” during the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The move was rejected by Israel. India, Brazil, France, Italy and Nepal were among the 14 countries that abstained during the vote. It was not immediately clear whether Malki had written similar letters to his counterparts in other countries that abstained.
Malki further said in the letter that the resolution was “not an aberration to the Human Rights Council”, and it was the “by-product of extensive multilateral consultations” and “thorough investigations into and reporting on Israel’s grave violations by States, United Nations experts, Human Rights Treaty bodies, and international organizations”.
He added that the Palestinian people had been “excluded from the applicability of the universal and the indispensable principle of accountability, a prerequisite to justice and peace”. Malki contended that the root causes of injustice suffered by the Palestinian people include “decades-long dispossession, displacement, colonization, oppression…and the denial and violation of their every human right by Israel”.
Unless these root causes are addressed, Malki wrote, the “situation will not only remain volatile, but will continue deteriorating with far-reaching and grave repercussions”. Palestine is ready to “engage positively and seriously to achieve this goal and realize peace in the region”, he added.
In its latest statement at the UN Security Council on May 27, India said the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has “arrested the sharp deterioration of the security situation” though the “situation continues to be fragile”. India reiterated its call for all parties to observe “maximum restraint and avoid acts of violence, provocation, incitement and destruction” and also underlined the need to respect the historic status quo in Jerusalem.
While focusing on rehabilitation and reconstruction in Gaza, India called for resumption of dialogue between Israel and Palestine for a two-state solution. “The absence of direct and meaningful negotiations between the two parties has only widened the trust deficit, which, in turn, increases the chances for similar escalations in the future,” it said.