India differs with US on Jerusalem as capital of Israel
India says its position on Palestine is independent and consistent, and not determined by any third country
New Delhi: India on Thursday differed with the US on recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel—one of the several instances in recent times of the two countries, whose ties are seen rapidly warming, holding different views on American policy initiatives.
In its reaction to US President Donald Trump’s announcement that his administration would begin a process of moving the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, India said it would take an independent stance on the subject.
“India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country,” an Indian foreign ministry statement citing spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.
Wednesday’s announcement makes the US the first country to recognize Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. This is contrary to the position taken by most countries, who believe the status of Jerusalem should be resolved in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. No country has an embassy in Jerusalem.
Pinak Chakravarty, a former secretary in-charge of economic relations in India’s foreign ministry and who was posted in Israel at the time India opened an embassy in the Jewish country in 1992, is of the view that New Delhi’s response makes it clear that India “will not support the Trump administration’s policy on this”.
Previously, India sidestepped US objections to its maintaining an embassy in Pyongyang—as part of Washington’s efforts to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programmes.
“As far as the question of embassy goes, our embassy there (in Pyongyang) is very small, but there is in fact an embassy,” Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said in October during a visit by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson.
“I told Secretary Tillerson that some of their friendly countries should maintain embassies there so that some channels of communication are kept open,” she said.
And last month, India distanced itself from the Trump administration’s position on Cuba as it voted in favour of a UN resolution urging an end to the US embargo on Cuba. India was among 191 countries, out of 193 UN member states, to vote in favour of the resolution with US and Israel being the only two states to vote against the move in the global body.
Notwithstanding its strategic partnership with the US, India came out strongly against the decades-old US sanctions, calling them a “contravention of world opinion” as Trump sought to roll back some relaxations introduced by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
“Seeking improved relations with the US and having a desire for convergence doesn’t mean India has to agree with US policy initiatives that are a result of domestic political processes and not in consonance with general international public opinion,” said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal.
Once known as “estranged democracies”, ties between the world’s oldest and largest democracies have warmed considerably since the days of the Cold War when the two were seen to be on opposite sides of the divide.
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