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BRICS meet on Israeli war crimes: Why India preferred silence?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped the recent BRICS extraordinary summit on Israeli war crimes in Gaza and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar attended in his place. In this summit, India remained tight-lipped about Israeli war crimes and didn't demand an immediate ceasefire, unlike other member states. This has exhibited India's intention to stand with Israel despite its rhetoric-mongering in favour of Palestine.

BRICS meet on Israeli war crimes: Why India preferred silence?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped the recent BRICS extraordinary summit on Israeli war crimes in Gaza and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar attended in his place. In this summit, India remained tight-lipped about Israeli war crimes and didn’t demand an immediate ceasefire, unlike other member states. This has exhibited India’s intention to stand with Israel despite its rhetoric-mongering in favour of Palestine.

“We are all aware that the immediate crisis was triggered by the terrorist attack of 7th October. Where terrorism itself is concerned, none of us should or can compromise with it.”

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar at the BRICS virtual summit on Tuesday, November 22nd.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called an extraordinary virtual summit of BRICS leaders on Tuesday, November 22nd, to discuss the humanitarian crisis caused due to the Gaza genocide. The BRICS leaders condemned the ongoing genocide in Gaza and many of them termed the forced displacement of the Palestinian people, within and outside Gaza, Israeli war crimes.

Although all government heads of the member countries attended this session, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped it and External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar participated on his behalf. While India claimed that Modi had other engagements—mostly election rallies—it appears that he abstained from the crucial discussion to avoid annoying Israel, India’s closest ally.

Modi had earlier courted controversy by openly endorsing Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people when he extended support to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government following the Palestinian resistance’s attack on occupation forces on October 7th. Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also launched a massive social media campaign in support of Israeli war crimes and vilified the Palestinian resistance.

Apart from Modi’s proactive support for the Israeli state, India also abstained from a crucial United Nations (UN) voting on a resolution that condemned the Israeli aggression on Palestine, citing that the issue of Hamas, which has been hyped by Tel Aviv and its western supporters, was missing from the final draft.

Though in a bid to damage control, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) later reaffirmed India’s official position in support of a free Palestinian state and declared that it would send humanitarian aid to the entrapped people of Gaza, the damage was already done.

Now, with Modi’s skipping of the crucial BRICS meeting, which was attended by Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and presided by outgoing BRICS chair South Africa’s Ramaphosa, India exhibited that it won’t take any serious stand on the ongoing genocide for the sake of its relationship and dependence on Israel as well as the West.

EAM skips mentioning the ceasefire

At the BRICS meeting, EAM Jaishankar spoke on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine using the clichés that the Indian government has been reiterating, however, he also blamed Hamas’s Operation Al-Aqsa Flood for the current phase of violence.

“We are all aware that the immediate crisis was triggered by the terrorist attack of 7th October. Where terrorism itself is concerned, none of us should or can compromise with it. Hostage taking is equally unacceptable and cannot be condoned. Subsequent developments have deepened our concern even more as we witness large scale civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis. We strongly condemn any death of civilians (sic)”, Jaishankar reportedly said, according to the MEA.

Surprisingly, Jaishankar’s remarks, despite pondering over the need for a peaceful solution to the conflict through the formation of an independent Palestinian state, remained explicitly silent on the demand for an immediate ceasefire. The EAM’s official remarks don’t have the term “ceasefire” in it, which was the core agenda of the BRICS meeting on the Gaza genocide and Israeli war crimes. Rather, the EAM cited the 70 tonnes of humanitarian assistance sent by India to the Gaza Strip through Egypt.

EAM’s silence on the need to save civilian lives

The EAM’s remarks also didn’t mention the urgent need to save the civilian lives, which are at stake in the entrapped Gaza enclave. While other leaders like Putin and Xi emphasised saving civilian lives through an immediate ceasefire, the Indian EAM only limited his remarks to finding a long-term solution and providing humanitarian aid.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), until November 10th—the last day when the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza updated the tally of victims—11,078 civilians, including 4,506 children and 3,027 women, were killed by the Israeli aggression in Gaza alone. Around 2,700 others, including approximately 1,500 children, are reported missing and maybe dead or trapped under the rubble.

The UNOCHA also reported that since the beginning of the new round of the conflict, 201 civilians, including 52 children, have been killed by the Israeli forces in the West Bank. Additionally, eight others, including a child, have been killed by the Israeli settlers in the West Bank. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 53 journalists have been killed by Israeli aggression since the beginning of the conflict.

In the meantime, electricity, water and telecommunication services are disrupted in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli forces. The Palestinian hospitals in the Gaza Strip have been bombed, killing hundreds who took shelter in their vicinity as well and the remaining hospitals are either forced to shut down due to lack of electricity or due to continuous Israeli attacks.

Over 1.7m people out of its 2.2m population have been displaced by the new round of violence in the Gaza Strip. The UNOCHA reported that 930,000 have taken shelter in the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) camps. This number is far higher than the capacity of the camps. Moreover, the Israeli attacks have killed several UNRWA members in the Gaza Strip. Despite an international outcry over such grotesque Israeli war crimes, the US-led West continues to back the Zionist state’s aggression.

Amid this crisis, and the growing number of those killed, injured and displaced, the Indian EAM’s conspicuous silence on the issue of stopping the violence against civilians in Palestine exhibits New Delhi’s allegiance towards the West. It shows that apart from phrase-mongering, New Delhi has no serious intention to save civilians, especially children, from falling victim to Israeli war crimes.

Double standards: Supporting Israeli war crimes and playing the Global South card

On the one hand, India has been a vocal supporter of the Global South, which Prime Minister Modi highlighted during the BRICS Summit at Johannesburg, held in August and during the G20 Summit in September, while on the other, New Delhi has been repeatedly tilting towards the West on several occasions.

India has remained committed to the West-led QUAD entente against China. Recently, India held 2+2 meetings with the QUAD members US and Australian leaders in New Delhi. In these meetings, New Delhi strongly condemned the Hamas attacks on the Israeli occupation and remained mum on the plight of the Palestinian civilians’ plight.

Despite the majority of the Global South supporting the Palestinian cause and opposing the Israeli war crimes, New Delhi maintained a diametrically opposite stand. While it spoke highly of multipolarity, it has been strengthening the unilateral world order under the aegis of the US in return for the West’s support it in its quest to become Asia’s superpower.

Due to this you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-your attitude of New Delhi regarding the West, platforms like BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and others may suffer, as under Modi, India shows no plans to promote multilateralism and multipolarity, it displays no intention to protect its long-term geopolitical interests by winning friends and resolving conflicts without shenanigans.

A zero-sum game?

It’s normal for any country’s foreign policy to be driven by pragmatism in the current scenario. India has the right to choose sides in a conflict and the right to choose neutrality. However, when there is a large-scale genocide unfolding before the world, choosing the side of the perpetrators is tantamount to being a collaborator in the crime.

Supporting Israeli war crimes will have far-reaching repercussions for India, which is one of the major oil importers from the Arab countries and has strong business ties with them. Moreover, India’s compulsion to support Israel for Modi’s ideological inclination and its unapologetic stooping before the US-led West renders its rhetoric on multipolarity a laughing stock.

If India starts belittling emerging platforms like BRICS, SCO, etc, by emphasising more ties with the West, which is sinking anyway, it’s going to be a zero-sum game. If India continues playing second fiddle to the West and acts as a pawn against China, its interests will suffer in the long run as the West neither has the economic bandwidth to satiate New Delhi’s growth hunger nor could it bail it out of any imminent crisis.

While Modi skipped the BRICS meeting on Israeli war crimes, India’s bête noire Pakistan has been appeasing Russia to enter BRICS and secured an oil import deal. Pakistan is already close to China. Hence, it may not be a problem for Pakistan to become a member of the BRICS even though India may object to it strongly.

If India sacrifices its BRICS and SCO memberships, it will lose the scope of becoming a prominent voice of the Global South and end up becoming an American neo-colony with an Indian at its helm. It would be a major catastrophe for the people of India, who will remain in constant fear of conflicts emerging due to the West’s geopolitical interests. Rather than heading towards a zero-sum game, wouldn’t it be better for New Delhi to play a positive and responsive role in global affairs? Isn’t it better to oppose the Israeli war crimes, and the genocide in Gaza, rather than boasting about providing aid when India aspires to be the leader of the Global South?

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