Palestinian terror group Hamas’ ghastly attack on Israel last Saturday killing over 600 has been rightly criticised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Though Modi has expressed solidarity with Israel, the MEA has been largely silent on the matter and has refrained from putting out a statement.

This does not come as a surprise as the situation in the region is still unfolding. The diplomatic position that India would take on the matter cannot be just tied to the close relationship that the Modi government has developed with Israel over the last few years focussed not just on defence equipment purchases but spanning across sectors.

India’s stance also has to figure in the Arab countries’ reaction to the developing situation as the Middle East, too, is gaining increasing importance in the country’s geo-economic scheme of things. Not only does India import much of its oil from the region and get considerable remittances from its expats there, it is also trying to woo more investments, carry out more trade and strike a free trade agreement with the Gulf nations. The ambitious India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor has only added to the Middle East’s significance for India.

Arab perceptions

If Israel’s retaliation turns more violent, as indicated by its PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the Arab countries may need to shed their ‘neutrality’ and side with Palestine.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry has already indicated that it blames Israel for the attacks as “its repeated warnings of the dangers of the explosion of the situation as a result of the continued occupation, and deprivation of the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights” were ignored.

So, India needs to be watchful and weigh carefully its reaction to further developments. Most importantly it must remember its traditional support for a ‘Two State Solution’ for Israelis and Palestinians. This view must not be lost.