India voted against Israel in a resolution to set up a commission to launch an international, independent inquiry, effectively passing the resolution. Twenty nine countries voted for the resolution,seventeen countries abstained, including Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. The US voted against the resolution in the 47 member Human Rights Council.

The inquiry will look at “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Gaza Strip in the context of military operations conducted since mid June,” according to a statement from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The council criticized Israeli military operations for unleashing “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Its strange that India voted against Israel given the open Pro Israel stand of the BJP that leads the government. The traditional reasons for India going with Palestinians is because of the large Muslim population in India and in the way secularism is defined in India, its directly linked to vote bank.

The other reasons for India voting with the Palestinians is India’s dependence on oil from the Gulf. This reason doesn’t cut ice. There are many countries including the US & Europe with much larger stakes in gulf oil including heavy investments that have traditionally been pro Israel but have maintained their leverage and domination in the region.

We have seen recently how the Saudis wanted to woo India away from Iran by supplying more oil to India to get India to reduce its imports from Iran thereby helping with sanctions on Iran to hurt it economically. In International relations, self interests matter. Given the price and quantity India lifts, no country will deny oil to India based on how it votes on the Palestinian issue.

India voted against Iran on its nuclear program but though it hurt the bilateral ties, it didn’t hurt oil supplies to India. Its India that reduced its of take due to pressure from the US.

The other reason given is the presence of large Indian population in the gulf. This should be seen as a strength than a weakness in how India uses it to push its policies. The gulf countries requires large and skilled and unskilled manpower to run its economies. Even then, the treatment Indian workers receive in the Gulf states is pathetic to say the least and India hasn’t done much to take care of the rights of its citizens in the region saying it can’t do much with the policies of the gulf nations. Yes India does get big amounts of remittance from expats there but that in no way dictates India’s vote for or against Israel.

India sadly has never had a policy that suits its national interests and has gone by narrow vote bank politics over the years. This is where the decision of the BJP led government surprises. It is not someone who believed in any appeasement policies. Its not even depended on Muslim votes to get its seat. Or is it that the BJP is now playing “soft secularism” to get Muslims on its side by appearing to side with the Palestinians? This doesn’t take away from the fact that Palestinians are against India on the Kashmir issue. Just a few days ago the Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan issues a statement appearing pro Pak on its policy on Kashmir.

India has more going with Israel in the strategic sphere especially in defence technology and imports of defence equipment. Israel is up there with Russia in defence sales to India. India has joint ventures lined up with in the defence sphere. India also has more going with joint research and development in agriculture and other fields.

India while voting against Israel didn’t take into account the attacks by Hamas on Israel. If Israel didn’t have its Iron Dome system in place intercepting rockets, Israel too would have had a high casualty rate if the number of deaths caused is the means to indict Israel goes. The resolution doesn’t talk about Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields or using civilian areas to base its rockets from where it fires. Hamas has violated the humanitarian ceasefire offered by Israel. In all this Israel has been made out a villain while not enough action has been taken to sanction Hamas and its supporters. Israel has a right to defend itself. Yes the loss of civilian lives is unacceptable and regrettable but the UNHRC would do well to investigate use of human shields and staging rocket attacks from civilian areas by Hamas.

India’s voting record at UNHRC is pretty shabby with respect to its foreign policy goals if we have one. We abstained on the vote against Sri Lanka although we supported the Lankans on it. SL didn’t take kindly to our abstention.

India I am sure will have some explaining to do to Israel on its vote against it. Given India’s own troubles with UN on Kashmir issue, we should not expect Israel to support us on such platforms if any any stage any resolution comes up against India.