|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
The Rediff Special/ Ramananda Sengupta
Hamas win puts Delhi in a bind
January 27, 2006
What does the Hamas's victory in Palestine's parliamentary elections mean for the world in general, and for India in particular?
If the knee-jerk reaction of the Western world is anything to go by, it certainly means that the West Asia peace process has just hit another major roadblock.
Both Tel Aviv and Washington have ruled out any negotiations with a government led by the Hamas, which is proscribed as a terrorist outfit by both nations. The militant outfit's official platform, among other things, refuses to recognize Israel and calls for its destruction.
As for New Delhi, the Hamas win puts it in a bind similar to that posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions, with India trying very hard to balance its relations with Teheran and the Western powers, who are getting increasingly aggressive over Iran's nuclear programme.
Both Israel and the US are seen as strategically important allies for India, particularly in the field of security. Ties with Washington are improving at a blistering pace, despite the protests by the leftist fringe in the government.
Israel and the US say for the Hamas to be recognized, it must disarm its cadres, publicly renounce terror and recognize Israel.
Here's what a main Israeli daily, the Haaretz, said in an analysis: 'Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections is one of the most important events in the history of the Middle East since the Six Day War. Not only does it change the picture, but also it puts it into a completely different frame.
'Palestine under Hamas rule puts an end not only to the road map and the Oslo process, but also to the formula embodied by UN Resolution 242: "land for peace" and an accompanying end to the conflict. Not only does it perpetuate the conflict, but also it reshapes it -- from an Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a Jewish-Arab one, and even a Western-Muslim one. Such a conflict, backed by the global jihad movement and Khomeinist Iran, has neither a solution nor an end.'
But India is also wooing the Arab world to cater to its massive energy needs.
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud was the chief guest at this year's Republic Day, the first visit by a Saudi monarch in over 50 years.
India has traditionally had very good relations with the Palestinians, particularly with the late Yasser Arafat and his PLO.
So, under the circumstances, New Delhi has once again the unenviable task of delicately balancing its energy needs with its strategic ones.
The Rediff Interview/ Palestinian Ambassador Dr Khalid El-Sheikh
Endorsing the call for the disarming of the Hamas might alienate the oil-rich Arab world -- which mostly sees the Hamas win as positive.
Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, was quoted as saying that the United States 'can't promote democracy but then reject the results of this democracy.'
Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader widely tipped to head the new Palestinian Authority, urged the US, 'which said that it will not deal with the Hamas, to respect democracy which it calls for.'
But not endorsing the Western demand that the Hamas disarm and renounce terror could alienate the US and Israel, and open Delhi up to charges of appeasing terrorist outfits, despite the fact that the Hamas came to power through a legitimate election.
As for disarming, here's what Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniya has to say: 'The Americans and the Europeans say to Hamas: Either you have weapons or you enter the legislative council. We say weapons and the legislative council. There is no contradiction between the two.'
A Saudi diplomat accompanying the King in Delhi reportedly remarked that the win of the hardline Hamas and the expected win of hardliner Benyamin Netanyahu in the upcoming Israeli elections would actually make it easier for the two sides to talk.
(A similar argument was made re India and Pakistan when the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power in India in 1999.)
Apart from posing a huge challenge to its diplomatic skills, how the Indian government tackles the Hamas issue will be indication of its priorities at the moment.
The Rediff Specials