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Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India did not address the gathering, and it was unclear whether this reflected a shift in the country’s position on the war in Gaza.

Shortly after the Oct. 7 attacks, Mr. Modi posted on X, formerly Twitter, that India stood in “solidarity with Israel.” Late last month, India also abstained from a U.N. General Assembly resolution calling for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, arguing that the text did not condemn Hamas.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/21/world/middleeast/brics-summit-israel-gaza-war.html

Why does India have a more pro-Israel stance on the Gaza-Israel war than other BRICS countries and countries in the Global South? Most countries in the BRICS and from the Global South support Palestine over Israel, but it seems India is a lot more pro-Israel than others. Why is that? In my understanding, the Middle East combined has a bigger economy than the whole of Israel, I don't see how India can benefit from this.

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    This might contradict the general perception, but Saudi Arabia and the UAE are thought to be on the side of Israel in its war against Hamas. Which will be members of BRICS from 1 January 2024.
    – Mocas
    Nov 23, 2023 at 13:15
  • 3
    "the Middle East combined has a bigger economy than the whole of Israel" this sentence while it is true, it is giving the wrong impression. In fact, each of KSA and Turkey INDIVIDUALLY has bigger GDP than Israel, with UAE not far behind.
    – Mocas
    Nov 23, 2023 at 13:30
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    I guess India can't help comparing Pakistan to Hamas and hence themselves to Israel...
    – alamar
    Nov 23, 2023 at 14:35
  • 1
    Anti-Muslim hate speech has been uprising in India, especially in BJP-ruled states, see this report from Hindutva Watch. As @alamar mentioned, people usually mistakenly link ideologies to political conflicts. Nov 23, 2023 at 20:12
  • The fact they're both ethnonationalist autocracies masquerading as democracies might be a hint.
    – nick012000
    Dec 19, 2023 at 21:31

3 Answers 3

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History. India has always had an amicable relationship with both Israel and Palestine. This is possible because leaders on all sides are aware of each others local and international political constraints.

Even if it was one of the last non-muslim state to recognize the Israeli state, it had allowed Israel to open a consulate in India in 1953 itself and maintained an open channel between the two countries. Israel has also helped India by supplying it arms during wars in 1962, 1965, 1971 and later in 1999, and also sharing intelligence on Pakistan and some terrorist groups. At the same time India was the first non-Arab country to recognize the PLO, and later allowed it to open an embassy with full diplomatic privilege in India. A NAM summit held in India issued a strong statement of solidarity for Palestine because of India's diplomacy. India also supported the Palestinian uprising in Gaza and West Bank, while condemning Israel's "iron fist" policies that lead to it. The Palestinian President, Arafat, in turn, was one of the few muslim leaders who supported India's stand on Kashmir, against Pakistan.

But, due to its colonial history and politics bound in Gandhian philosophy, India has always condemned the use of violence as a political tool. This has always been a point of contention for India with both the Israelis and Palestinians. This aspect is what has slightly changed, temporarily, in the Indo-Israel relationship - India may today seem to be more forgiving towards Israel's use of violence, than in the past.

This is because the polity of both India and Israel are today dominated by the right, for whom violence is part and parcel of their political ideology.

Both countries today have authoritarian leaders with scant respect for democracy, and a shared ideology of establishing a state with a religious identity. Both leaders also have a fundamentalist political inclination to deny the rights of the minorities in their state and treat them like second-class citizens. This personal rapport between Israeli PM Netanyahu and Indian PM Modi is why there is, currently, a more visible "pro-Israel" tilt in India's foreign policy.

Media articles (including the ones I have cited) that suggest that India's relationship has suddenly "accelerated" to strategic partnership due to the excellent chemistry between Netanyahu and Modi, are erroneous and partly propaganda. The reality is that it's just a natural evolution of their past foreign policies, and changing international order. This is apparent when you learn that even in the 80's, Israel and India once considered a joint military operation to sabotage Pakistan's nuclear program.

The only difference is that previous Israeli and Indian government were more prudent about not publicising the strategic nature of their relationship, while the current leaders today prefer to carelessly use it for PR for domestic political gains. (Hence all the increased media spotlight on the relationship).

Note though that keeping in line with its non-alignment foreign policy, India has always ensured its relationship with Israel was never at the cost of its commitment to the Palestinian people and vice-versa.

The "strong friendship" between Netanyahu and Modi didn't prevent India from still voting in favour of the UN resolution that condemns Israeli settlement activities in ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’. Nor has Modi's government designated or banned Hamas as a terrorist organisation. (A Hamas leader even publicly - virtually - addressed a pro-Palestine gathering in Kerala, India, highlighting the support the Palestinian cause has among many Indians.)

References:

  1. How India-Israel ties progressed
  2. India’s Hindutva Proponents and Zionist Israel: Strange Bedfellows
  3. When Pakistan feared Israel, India would attack its nuclear weapon sites
  4. Arafat for Kashmir solution within Shimla pact
  5. Arafat didn't support Kashmiris: Geelani
  6. Hamas leader's virtual address in Malappuram: Police begins inquiry
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Additionally [to sfxedit's answer], which can be exemplified with this quote:

It took only a few hours after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel for Hindu nationalists to begin using the conflict for their own benefit. "What Israel is facing today, India suffered between 2004-14. Never forgive, never forget," reads a message posted on X (formerly Twitter) by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It's accompanied by a shocking video featuring images of the Bombay attacks in which over 160 people were killed in 2008. This was a way for the BJP to establish a link with terrorist attacks perpetrated on Indian soil between 2004 and 2014, when the Indian National Congress, now in opposition, ruled the country.

Apart from that, Indian nationalists have apparently even been talking about following the "Israeli model" in Kashmir, in terms of settlements etc.

India has recent seen a surge in weapons cooperation with Israel, in part because Russia has been unable to supply India as much as before, due to their "domestic" surge in demand.

Total [Israeli] defense exports to India are expected to amount to $130 billion over the next five years.

And possibly also because Israeli weapons might come with fewer strings attached for India than (more) Western ones. At least in the more distant past, while the West subjected India to various arms embargoes due to their nuke program, Israel has not. (Somewhat aside, but Israel has reassured India that the recent war in Gaza won't be affecting their deliveries.)


Another interesting point is that while India is often criticized by Muslim countries for its treatment of the Muslim minority, its trade with the Gulf countries at least has been booming too.

Trade between India and the Arab world has seen sustained growth, already surpassing $240 billion a year. Bilateral trade between India and the United Arab Emirates alone amounted to $84 billion as of the end of March 2023, while trade with Saudi Arabia topped $53 billion. The region supplies approximately 60% of India's total crude oil imports.

So probably India expects little blowback in that regard.

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  • The quote you cited is insightful for another reason - some state elections are going on in India, and the very public pro-Israel posturing is partly meant to be a bait to the opposition. But the oppn. smartly ignored it. “The Modi government believes that as long as the war in Gaza persists, media attention will be directed towards Hamas, which they perceive as an opportunity to further fuel Islamophobia within Indian society,” Swain argued. - India Once Was a Strong Ally of Palestine. What Changed?
    – sfxedit
    Nov 24, 2023 at 21:44
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India's overall position on the conflict hasn't changed much. India remains committed to the two state solution, as the External Affairs Minister reiterated.

India's position on the Oct 7 attacks specifically was based on its approach towards terrorism.
India's government has, in the last decade, made counter-terrorism its top national security priority.

The focus on counter-terrorism can be seen from the fact that almost all of India's statements in bilateral meetings and multilateral forums include a strong commitment to working against terrorism together. For bilateral joint statements, check out US, Italy, Kenya, Japan. For multilateral statements, check out BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, G20, etc.

Other global south nations don't share the same aversion to terrorism that India does. For example, the India-Papua New Guniea bilateral mentioned terrorism as a major threat, but China-Papua New Guniea bilateral didn't.

The October 7 attacks on Israel are considered terrorist attacks by India. Look at the reaction from one of India's diplomats at the UN:

Yojna Patel, India's deputy permanent representative to the U.N., said the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel "were shocking and deserve condemnation." Early that morning, militants stormed across the barrier separating Gaza from Israel and killed over 1,400 people, while kidnapping more than 200 and spiriting them back to Gaza as hostages, according to local officials.

"Terrorism is a malignancy and knows no borders, nationality, or race," Patel said on the day of the U.N. vote. "The world should not buy into any justification of terror acts. Let us keep aside differences, unite and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism."

The India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue joint statement says the same

Noting horrific terrorist attacks against Israel, the Ministers reiterated that the United States and India stand with Israel against terrorism ...

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