West Asia is amid an endless chaos. While the blood-spilling civil war in Syria refuses to die down, a fresh battle has started between the Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of innocent people are being killed and no move to re-establish peace in the region is visible. Will horrifying pictures of dead children and women continue to haunt us every time we unfold a newspaper or surf the Internet?
The answer is: Indefinitely. The plight of those innocent children and women is humanly unbearable but the problem is that sentiments have no place in the domain of realpolitik, which dominates foreign policy of a nation. There is no wrongdoer in politics, whether national or international, for pursuit of national interest is the only defining mantra.
The Israeli and Palestinian interests can never be accommodated together no matter how much external interference is exercised and it is more futile to expect India to take a strong stand against the ongoing violence and condemn the 'guilty'.
Protests have taken place in New Delhi and Srinagar where students and lawyers have been slamming Israel for the aerial attacks on Gaza Strip. Voices are being raised in the popular media against the hawkish men ruling in Tel Aviv. Allegations are being made that these attacks were pre-planned, keeping in mind the latest US election and the upcoming election in Israel early next year. The protesters slammed the silent Indian government and demanded de-escalation of the violence immediately.
Indian foreign policy was always opportunistic and it's normal
But why will the Indian government speak in favour of either party involved in the crisis? We tend to view our foreign relations from a Nehruvian perspective of the Cold War era. But historically, India, which so proudly spoke of its non-aligned and hence independent foreign policy, actually adopted a morally convenient stand as and when seemed necessary.
New Delhi never condemned the Soviet invasion in Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and 1960s. A temporary prime minister in Charan Singh had condemned the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in 1979 but when Indira Gandhi succeeded him next year, New Delhi's perception of the invasion took a turn. It then said that the Afghan government had actually invited the Soviets.
In the initial years after Nehru's death, India had blatantly violated the ideology of non-alignment. India never condemned the US invasion in Vietnam and also openly entered into a military alliance with the USSR during the Bangladesh war to meet the challenges from US-Pakistan-China axis. That was the nature of our 'independent foreign policy'.
In the 1970s, India used the CIRUS nuclear reactor set up in the 1950s with the help of the west for peaceful purposes to produce nuclear weapons. Later also, India built the Dhruva reactor for bomb-grade fuel. The country was doing all this despite preaching itself as a land of non-violence and supporter of universal disarmament. But there is no point in calling this hypocrisy. As pundits of international relations know, it is only permanent interests that matter and there can be no permanent friends or foes.
In 2012, world politics is precisely a one-way traffic with little scope for manoeuvrability. The popular sentiments on the ground are putting pressure on New Delhi to take a strong stand against Israel but authorities in South Block know very well that it is not possible. India has asked both Israel and Palestine to show restraint and avoid taking extreme measures that could worsen the situation more and that is what it can do at the most. Humanitarian internationalism does not work these days and that is the bottom line.
Complex Israel-Palestinian issue: Two extremist forces battle it out
The prevailing situation in west Asia can not be judged in the black and white. The complex situation in Palestinian power centres needs to be understood before passing a verdict on the crisis. The victory of the extremist Hamas over the moderate Mahmoud Abbas-led Fatah has created the situation difficult in the very first place.
The death of Yasser Arafat had created a big vacuum in the Palestinian leadership and it was filled more by Hamas than a weakened Fatah. Abbas did not have the authority to leave a long-lasting impact on West Asia in terms of peace.
Another factor that has intensified the crisis is Israel's hardline leadership. Tel Aviv found a more suitable opponent in Hamas than Abbas. A leader like Benjamin Netanyahu is more comfortable in dealing with Hamas's rocket attacks than actually engage himself in the politics of negotiation. The two extremist sides, hence, have kept on changing the strategy as and when necessary but never really the battle de-escalated. You can't really have a de-escalation unless one side softens the stand. Abbas was needed but he remained sidelined.
People in front of a damaged building in gaza city
People stand in front of a high rise housing media organisations in Gaza City on Monday.
Students protest against Israel in New Delhi
Members of various students' organisations protesting against Israel's ongoing air strike over Gaza outside the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi on Monday.
Students holding Pro-Palestinian placards in Srinagar
Students holding Pro-Palestinian placards during a candle light protest against Israel's ongoing air strike over Gaza at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Sunday evening.
Explosion caused by Israeli attack on the outskirts of Gaza City
Smoke rises following an Israeli strike in Zeitun on the outskirts of Gaza City.
A Palestinian woman runs during clash with Israeli security forces
A Palestinian woman runs during clashes with Israeli security forces in Gaza Strip near the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday.
Israel also killed Hamas's military leader Ahmad al-Jabari for he did not want to carry on with the battle with Tel Aviv. A third factor that has encouraged Hamas in its battle against Israel is that it has a number of friends lending it support. While Syria and Iran are already there, countries like Egypt and Turkey have begun interference for the Hamas, thanks to their worsened relations with Israel. The last two states are more important because they have an ally in the USA. The continuing Israel-Hamas conflict can also endanger Washington's plans in the West Asia and bolster Tehran.
India's foreign policy dilemmas
In this situation, it demands a sound judgement from New Delhi to express its voice. Humanitarian loss is not the key. The attack on an Israeli Embassy car in New Delhi allegedly by Iran earlier this year had put India in a tricky situation. Iran, which is a much older ally of India, secures the latter's energy needs while Israel is a major supplier of arms to India. In fact, the two has seen a steadily growing relationship in the recent years.
New Delhi can not really openly make a one-sided statement like 'Israel should stop killing innocent children and women' no matter how much pressure is created from below. On Iran, India can neither afford to inch very close to Tehran for it can't risk to antagonise Israel and the west nor can it alienate Iran for the latter can prove to be a vital ally as far as securing the post-2014 situation in Afghanistan and maintaining a check on Pakistan are concerned.
The ground situation is complicated and it is not only India but several other nations including China need to carefully chart out its ways in the volatile West Asia and they are acting accordingly. Even the United Nations has stood crippled on this issue so far. Yes, faces of those killed children do shock us, but what can we do really? May God forgive us but we can not continue living in a fool's paradise.