Monday, February 26, 2024

De-escalation of Israel-Hamas conflict in India’s interest, says former diplomat

New Delhi: India has a stake in the de-escalation of the raging conflict between Israel and Hamas, said Navdeep Suri, former Indian Ambassador to Egypt, in an interview with Mint. As tensions rise between Israel and the militant group Hamas, Suri highlighted India’s advantageous position resulting from the normalization process between Israel and several Arab nations since the 2020 Abraham Accords.

These accords, signed in Washington in 2020, led to a normalized relationship between Israel and countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. Additionally, Saudi Arabia, the regional heavyweight, has also been engaged in normalization talks with Israel.

The formation of the I2U2 group in 2021 by India, Israel, the US, and the UAE, along with the emergence of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, are products of this normalization.

“India was going to be the first beneficiary of the I2U2. The India-UAE food security corridor, for example, envisages a $2 billion investment by UAE, along with US and Israeli technology, into Indian agriculture. Similarly, there is another clean energy project which combines solar, wind and battery-storage technologies. So again, the fact that the first two projects that were being conceptualized were to be located in India, made India a beneficiary. But also the India Middle East Europe Corridor project was born out of the womb of I2U2 and the Abraham Accords. If those two building blocks hadn’t been there, then this corridor project probably wouldn’t have been conceptualized. So I think India is front and center as a country that was poised to benefit from the winds of normalization,” Suri explained.

Yet, the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, which erupted after a series of Hamas-initiated attacks in Israel killing approximately 1,300 people on 7 October, might jeopardize this normalization and India’s interests.

“What you see is a cooling-off in the warmth that had suddenly exploded in the last couple of years, particularly between UAE and Israel. This conflict has also nipped in the bud the ongoing discussions about bringing a normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. I don’t think the conflict means a death blow to either I2U2 or to the India-Middle East-Europe corridor project. This is a longer term game and they have a certain dynamic of their own. But the realities on the ground, and particularly the hardening attitudes against Israel once again in the Arab world, would make cooperation more difficult than it was 6 months back,” said Suri, who also served as the ambassador to the UAE.

Suri believes India’s interests would best be met by an early conflict resolution. However, he sees limited potential for India playing a mediation role due to entrenched positions from both parties. He also noted that the Israeli government’s encouragement of unauthorized settlements complicates India’s preference for a two-state solution.

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Updated: 25 Oct 2023, 12:39 PM IST

#Deescalation #IsraelHamas #conflict #Indias #interest #diplomat

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