JERUSALEM: India's abstention in a vote at the UNHCR on a UN report critical of Israel's Gaza war last year is being seen here as a "significant shift" in New Delhi's policy, a "testament to strong ties" which are "taking off" under the new NDA regime, experts have said.
In a "historic first" in UN votes on Israel, India did not vote for the Palestinians, but rather abstained, wrote a commentator while others described it as "dramatic" and an "unprecedented achievement for Israel".
They said the move indicated a major "take off" in ties indicated also by an announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Israel, the first by an Indian Premier.
"That India's representative in Geneva abstained on Friday is a significant shift testament to the strong ties that have developed between Israel and India over the last 20 years, and which are taking off now under Prime Minister Narendra Modi," a columnist wrote.
"This is a huge development for India, one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement, which as a movement always voted against Israel," he noted.
Israeli daily Haaretz saw India's abstention as reflective of "a significant policy change" by Delhi, which traditionally voted in favour of all anti-Israel resolutions in UN institutions.
"Friday's abstention was another sign of warming ties between India and Israel since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014," it said.
Despite clarifications from New Delhi emphasising "no change in India's support for the Palestinian cause", Israeli media quoted diplomatic sources describing the vote as "dramatic".
Israeli envoy to India Daniel Carmon tweeted, "We appreciate votes by members of @UN_HRC, including #India, who did not support yet another anti Israel bashing resolution. We thank them."
"Well, on Friday, that shift took place – and its implications for Israel’s foreign relations are positive, dramatic and significant", a political commentator said.
Officials here said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reached out to his Indian counterpart and urged him to abstain during the UNHRC voting. The two leaders share a good rapport and had met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last year. They have since kept in touch.
India's constant support for resolutions condemning Israel in favour of Palestinians at UN forums has probably been the only irritant in an otherwise ever-strengthening ties between the two countries.
The UNHRC on Friday adopted a resolution condemning Israel for its use of "huge firepower" against Gazans during its offensive last year. 41 countries voted in favour of the resolution with only Israel's close ally US voting against.
India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Paraguay and Macedonia abstained. The 50-day Gaza war killed 1,462 civilians, and left 11,231 injured on the Palestinian side while six civilians died on the Israeli side.