India has just made a welcome contribution to capacity-building and infrastructure development in Palestine. During his visit to Ramallah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged $50 million towards several projects, including $30 million to develop a super-speciality hospital in Beit Sahour, and the rest going towards building schools, a diplomat training institute, a training centre for empowering women, etc. This is a step in the right direction. However, India could have been more generous. Assistance worth $50 million is a pittance considering the needs of the Palestinian people. Their infrastructure is in shambles. Decades of Israeli occupation has devastated human capacity in the West Bank and Gaza.
More disturbing is India's diluted support to the Palestinian state. In his speech at Ramallah, Modi endorsed a "sovereign, independent" Palestine. However, he did not use the words 'united' and 'viable' that Indian official statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have always included hitherto. This was not an off-the cuff remark by the prime minister. It was a prepared speech made in the presence of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The dropping of the words 'united' and 'viable' was deliberate and reflect a shift in India's policy. This dilution in India's position on Palestine is not new. Over the past year, Delhi excluded terms like 'two-state solution' and 'East Jerusalem as capital' of the future Palestinian state in its statements. Over the past two decades, India has toned down its response to Israeli violence, too. If earlier it was forthright in its condemnation of Israel, increasingly it chooses to equate Israeli state terror with Palestinian militant violence. By dropping the word 'united,' India is endorsing Israel's occupation of Palestinian land during the 1967 war. As Modi's bond with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deepens, India's principled position of support to the Palestinian national cause has eroded.
Modi's visit to Ramallah is being described as "historic." Sure, it is; this is the first time that an Indian prime minister has visited the seat of the Palestinian government. However, history will remember Modi's visit more for its public abandonment of the Palestinian people's right to a united and viable state. Indian officials will justify this position as a reflection of the de facto situation on the ground. This may be so. But importantly, it is an endorsement of occupation and no amount of sugar-coating or excuses can cover this bitter truth. It is evident that India has caved in to Israeli pressure. It is a pity that India, a country that fought colonial rule, is now backing Israel's violent occupation of Palestinian land. This is pusillanimous policy. On this, the Modi government has embarrassed India.