NEW DELHI: Keen to reach out to the Arab world in a time of crisis which has direct bearing on India, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday said that there was no change in India’s policy towards Palestine and Israel, even as she expressed concern over rising fanaticism.
“On such a sensitive issue, there is no room for confusion or misunderstanding. Let me repeat, and underline once again: There is no change in India’s policy of extending strong support to the Palestinian cause, while maintaining good relations with Israel,” she said at the inauguration of the first India-League of Arab States Media Symposium.
She said that this clarification was important as the Israel-Gaza conflict “has created conflicting interpretations in sections of the media”. It was an obvious reference to the controversy over the parliamentary debate, with the government at one stage being reluctant to allow a discussion on Gaza - pointing out that it could lead to unsavoury remarks against friendly countries. Sushma said India had called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint and work towards a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue.
Stating that India was watching post-Arab spring developments very closer, Sushma said, “India continues to be guided by the principles of being non-interfering, non-prescriptive and non-judgmental. In other words, India remains ready to provide any support, but strongly believes that it is for the Arab countries to decide their destiny, without any external interference or diktats from outside”.
Further, the minister said that India was “deeply concerned with the rise of fanaticism, extremism and terrorism in parts of the region”. “We are concerned for the stability of these countries where terrorism and fanaticism are tearing apart the fabric of societies and also concerned over the spill-over effects on regional stability,” added Sushma.
She noted that India’s concern was natural as the two regions were intertwined, from national, economic and human interests. “The continued captivity of 40 innocent Indian workers in Mosul and the holding of seven Indian seafarers in prolonged custody by pirates in Somalia have brought home to ordinary Indians searing impact of regional instability in parts of the Arab world,” she said.
She underlined that India looked at this relationship as being “pivotal to our national development goals as well as regional peace and stability”. Stating that her government had “unflinching commitment” to sustaining and expanding relations with the Arab world, Sushma asserted, “We see West Asia as India’s extended neighbourhood. The region is crucial to our national interests”.