Turning a visit, that could have been historic had there been a tad of sincerity and open-mindedness, into a political facade is what dimmed the sheen of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to West Asia.
Though Modi won fame by becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to pay a visit to Palestine, the world has already assessed him as an Indian head of state who failed to function by assimilating the sentiments of the Palestinians. He was greeted with the honour of ‘Grand Collar of the State of Palestine’ conferred on him, the highest given to foreign dignitaries, with immense love and regard. But Modi could not conduct himself well with the people there, putting aside the narrow-minded outlook of the RSS towards the Palestinians. It was not any financial aid of a few crores that the Palestinians expected from the homeland of Gandhi. The Palestinians would have been convinced that a country which has been extending them political and moral support since the birth of the nation, could no longer be counted upon to lend support in the struggle towards achieving the ultimate goal of an independent and sovereign nation.
Modi deliberately skipped the Jerusalem issue due to a departure from the earlier stance of an independent Palestine state with East Jerusalem as its capital. US President Donald Trump had months ago recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The majority of countries that opposed the move in the United Nations Assembly included India as well. However, that move has been proved as not out of any sincere stance other than a trick to throw dust into the eyes of the world. When two years ago, the then Indian President Pranab Mukherjee visited Palestine, he had reiterated India’s firm position. India had then informed the world that a two-state solution in which an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as capital and Israel should coexist peacefully with the borders of 1967. When the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was celebrated in 2013, the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had also addressed the matter with the same policy. Although diplomatic relations were retained with Israel then as well, an emotional affinity with Israel based on principle was inconceivable. . This was because Gandhiji’s homeland could in no way accept the apartheid and brutality shown by Israel towards a population driven away from their homeland, a product of British colonialism. Modi had visited Israel last year and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had recently come to India and celebrated the honeymoon of the Zionist and Hindutva ideologies. In this backdrop, the only incentive for Modi’s visit to West Asia may have been the calculation that irking West Asia, the energy resource of the world, would be a losing business.
The historical Indo-Arab friendships date back thousands of years. In regard to relations with the Gulf countries, where millions of Indians seek their daily bread, any creative step at the diplomatic level will benefit the Indian Diaspora living there, and through them our country. Among the Arab population, there has been an impression about India as country, in addition to being a major power of the region, with values that nurtures plurality of faiths and cultural diversity. Although that conviction was disturbed by events like the Babari masjid demolition, there is still a special place for us in the psyche of Arab society. Hence the preference we enjoy there as a work force. But the unfortunate fact is that there are no resolutions from our government that are productive in that direction or can pro-actively enhance our human resources in the region.
At the same time, one cannot discount the assessment that ever since Modi government took office, there has been a pattern of misusing opportunities offered abroad in line with the political agenda of the ruling party. It is quite likely that in future the Modi regime will boast about the opportunity he got to perform the shilanyas of the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, as one of his regime’s big achievements. The ruler of that country has donated a land area of 55,000 square meters. There was an implicit message in handing over such a large expanse of land to the chief exponent of an ideology that demolished a place of worship where Muslims had worshipped for four and half centuries. It is not clear if the prime minister had got any inkling of that. Had the prime minister made an announcement at that venue that his government would try to hand over the two acres of land where the Babari masjid is situated or that he would not compromise on protecting the freedom of religious minorities to believe in and practice their religion, that would have added to the stature of the prime minister. The fact that Modi, far from being blessed with that good luck, used even the foreign venue he came by to tarnish his political opponents, only underlines the axiom that the tours of rulers become fruitful only when they remain tall in mind.