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       Sunday, July 30, 2006

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India's strategy on Israel Lebanon Hezbollah Conflict in the Middle East

OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion through Blogs and Podcasts.


The Israel Lebanon Hezbollah conflict rages on for another week. Sunday saw the deadliest of Israeli strikes on Qana killing 54 civilians. While there was an official statement of condemnation it was measured in its tone and contents reflecting a new balance in Indian Foreign Policy. Earlier Tony Blair flew across the pond for a tete-a-tete with this comrade-in-arms George W. Bush. The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is set to fly again to the Middle east. Meanwhile the Indian Navy evacuated over 1000 Indian Nationals from Lebanon. On Thursday Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a statement in the Indian Parliament. Here is what he had to say.

Prime Minister Singh expressed serious concern about the escalation of the conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah extending across the Lebanon-Israel border. In a reflection of shifting foreign policy visa-vis Israel and the Middle East, the Prime Minister reminded his fellow parliamentarians that India had condemned the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by the Hezbollah cadres and had called for their immediate release much to the chagrin of the left and some muslim vote pandering regional party MPs. Singh then went to strike a balanced note by criticizing the IDF's actions in what he called disproportionate and excessive military retaliation. Singh then went on to talk about the humanitarian aid extended by India to Lebanon and the efforts by the Indian Navy to evacuate Indian Nationals from Lebanon.

Meanwhile Dr. Singh's main ally the Communist Party of India Marxist CPI-M lead by the Prakash Karat Sitaram Yechury combine played up its head in the sand world view by starting a signature campaign against Israel. The CPI-M has been whining for some time now about its unhapinnes with Indian Foreign policy. The stated intention of the campaign according to Sitaram Yechury is to exert pressure on the Manmohan Singh Government to take a strong stand against Israel in the wake of its continuing attack against Lebanon. It must be noted that Sitaram Yechury is a member of the Rajya Sabha and not the Lok Sabha and hence has never really represented directly the people of India. Of the 100 odd MPs who have appended their signatures to Yechury's campaign the bulk are most likely from Rajya Sabha representative of the electile dysfunctional political class with a political agenda not rooted in the grass roots reality of the country. This anti-Israel move is yet another example of this political class. Amongst Yechury's demands are moving the international community to impose sanctions against Israel and suspending purchase of arms.

The principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP stayed away from the left sponsored signature campaign and has not taken a strong public stance one way or the other on the issue giving the Government a lot of wiggle room while focusing its agenda in parliament on other issues. So the question is what should India's position be on this conflict ?

As always India's response to the unfolding series of events in the middle east must be guided solely by its strategic interests and nothing else. India must not allow silly stone age ideologies professed by the Left and rooted in the now defunct Non Aligned Movement to dictate its policy positions or diplomatic responses. India must also not entertain even for a second the divisive communally motivated opposition of the DMK, Samajwadi Party and the Telugu Desam, TDP which has less to do with Indian interests or policy positions but a whole lot to do with Muslim Vote Bank politics.

These regional parties stand exposed with their selective offense which ignores Darfur, Somalia and almost everyday slaugher of Shia civilians in Iraq by the Sunni Insurgency. The dubious offense expressed by these vote hungry politicians is further exemplified by the selective outrage of the rest of the Arab world which has been unusually silent with barely any street protests against Israel. Contrast this with the violence that was in display for many weeks in the aftermath of the Danish Cartoons lampooning Prophet Mohammad in not just the Arab street but Pakistan as well. This selective outrage underlines the ethnic conflict in the middle east between the Arab states and the growing influence of Iran. This latent Shia-Sunni conflict of interests is what is further adding fuel to the violence in the Middle East.

This is a good reason for India to not take a moralistic position in favor of one side against the other. Beyond humanitarian considerations India has no immideate stakes in the conflict between the Hezbollah and Israel. There are however long term Energy Security concerns. But these apply to the rest of the world as well and are not unique to India. A prolonged bout of violence or an enlargement to other regions is no more India's interests than it would be for the United States or Europe. Indian diplomatic efforts must be hence to work with the International Community in building a consensus towards a sustainable peace in the middle east. The U.S. guided by its own interests and strong domestic support for Israel had initially chosen its own path. Bowing to immense pressure from Europe and within some sections in the U.S., the Bush Administration is now veering towards a UN resolution and an International force mandated by the United Nations. To the extent possible India should lend its support to such an effort while it has international consensus. There is no need for India to go out of its way alone to take a silly moralistic position on this issue.

No matter what position India takes it is important that this does not lead to a legitimisation of a Hezbollah type state sponsored low intensity guerilla warfare that makes it impossible to distinguish terrorist from civilian. This is a dangerous trend that has the potential to legitimise a state within a state and become an example to other insurgencies across the world. South Asia can ill-afford such a scenario. The Newsweek Magazine in its latest edition carried an article titled “India's Beef with Pakistan“ where it almost endorsed the Musharraf regime's legitimisation of the Jammaat-ud-Dawa the parent organization of the Lashkar -e- Taiba for its relief work in Pakistan Occuppied Kashmir in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake. It is precisely this kind of legitimacy that allowed Iran to nurture the Hezbollah into the almost regular military force with civilian cover that it has morphed into today. Hence it is all the more imperative that India influence the International Consensus in a direction that leads to the disarming of the Hezbollah and a wholesale rejection of this brand of terrorism that sustains itself through a mass social network which not only acts a shield but also becomes a reason to accord it political legitimacy.

Offstumped Bottomline: The Left with its ostrich like attitude to a changing world order in partnership with Muslim Vote Bank hungry regional parties is hell bent on taking Indian Foreign Policy to the Stone Age. Manmohan Singh's Congress Lead UPA Government must resist this move by the Left. There are no immideate strategic Indian interests at stake here. India must resist taking silly moralistic positions. The Indian Right must lend its unqualified support to the Government in working with the International Community in achieving sustainable peace for Israel and its neighbours by disarming terrorist elements like the Hezbollah and Hamas.

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posted by Yossarin at 2:22 PM  


Biren said...

I agree with the writer. I believe that Indian govt. should not bow down to the leftist parties or the muslim groups. In order for India to become a world power, we must deal with our 'internal' prblems first. One of these 'internal problems' is that of Pakistan as well as Indian muslims to a great extent. How can we effectively deal with there problems in addition to poverty, corruption, population growth, AIDS, maoist insurgencies, communal problems and so forth? I think this article does a good job of what India should be doing.

5:02 AM  

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