By SHASHI THAROOR
No sooner than I had published my analysis of the Modi government’s foreign policy U-turns than the government obligingly decided to provide further confirmation of my thesis. Just a few days after Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had attempted to prevent discussion of the Gaza crisis in Parliament, and barely 48 hours after she had responded to the Rajya Sabha by stressing that India would not take any position on the tragedy there that might vitiate our relations with Israel, the Government did its latest about-face. It voted for a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Gaza that “strongly condemned” Israel’s “prolonged occupation” of Palestinian Territory, and condemned “in the strongest terms” the “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations” in Gaza.
Such language, endorsed by 29 countries and opposed by only one, the United States (as usual), though 17 nations preferred to abstain, was entirely consistent with India’s traditional positions on the Palestinian issue, which have remained more or less the same for the last three decades. Our position can be summarised thus: strong support for the Palestinian cause, opposition to Israeli occupation and illegal Jewish settlements, but acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist, and support for a peace process that would conclude with two states living side by side in peaceful co-existence. Voting for UN resolutions that condemned Israeli excesses was in keeping with this policy, and long-time followers of Indian diplomacy would have felt no surprise in seeing how New Delhi voted in Geneva.
But after listening to the Foreign Minister in recent days signalling a new even-handedness between the two sides (“both are our friends,” she declared, equating the 700 innocent civilian victims, including 170 little children, with those who had killed them) the vote did come as a surprise. The resolution not only avoided all pretence of equal blame, it explicitly suggested that “the Israeli military operations carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 13 June 2014…may amount to international crimes”. War crimes are not something you expect “friends” to be happy to be accused of.
Israelis and their sympathisers, who had expected – indeed, been led to expect – something different from the BJP, will be told that in fact the Modi government’s position was carefully calibrated: after all, it didn’t co-sponsor the Pakistani resolution, merely voted for it, and it took care to ensure that reference was included to Israeli civilian victims (of whom there have been precisely two). Indeed, the resolution “condemns all violence against civilians wherever it occurs”. Israel would clearly have preferred that a government professing even-handedness abstain, as most Europeans, some African countries and the Republic of Korea did. India rightly thought that would be too much of a departure from its traditional position and its normal pattern of voting, and went with its usual vote.
So India was consistent, but the BJP was not. The Government of India behaved as all Governments of India for the last thirty years have done. The BJP, with its words and actions in Delhi, its joining the Fortalezza consensus of BRICS countries and now its vote at the UNHRC, has signalled complete incoherence on its Israel policy.
Israeli apologists are justified in pointing out, of course, that their military action was in response to an incessant fusillade of Hamas-fired rockets raining down upon their citizenry. But these rockets, thwarted by the impressive solidity of the anti-missile defence system called the “Iron Dome”, caused little damage and no loss of life this year. Israel has every right to defend itself, but its right to do so cannot trample on the basic human rights of others. An air assault and military invasion that has killed 700 people and injured or maimed over 4000 more is grossly disproportionate to the wrong it is claiming to set right. The BJP, however, has refused to see this so far. Its diplomatic representatives have. This is the incoherence.
The resolution India voted for says three other things the Israelis will resent. It sets up an international commission of inquiry, but it is a foregone conclusion that the Government of Israel will not co-operate with such a commission or facilitate its work. It asks Switzerland, as custodian of the Geneva Conventions, to call a conference of all contracting parties – that would be a prelude to finding Israel guilty of war crimes, and the Israelis will leave the world in no doubt that making this demand is an unfriendly act.
Finally, it calls for an end to Israel’s blockade (the resolution terms it an “illegal closure”) of the Gaza Strip. This, of course, is a long-standing Hamas demand, and it is also Hamas’ only precondition to accepting a ceasefire.
So Israel will portray the UN resolution as giving aid and comfort to its enemies, and those who voted for it as dupes of Hamas terrorism. It is a strange place to be for a BJP leadership that just a few days ago didn’t even want Indian parliamentarians to express their concern at the unfolding humanitarian tragedy, lest it offend Israel.
As it struggles to come to terms with the unfamiliar demands of being in power and acting for India on the world stage, it’s clear the BJP will find itself in a lot more strange places in the months to come.
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Joint statement from the Greater Toronto Area & Hamilton Mayors and Chairs
We are united in fighting COVID-19 – protecting our residents and saving lives.
While the measures we have taken to stop the spread of the virus have made a difference, this virus has still taken far too many lives in our communities and continues to threaten the lives of our residents.
At the same time, there is no denying the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Jobs have been lost, many businesses have closed or are at risk of closure, and many families are worried about their financial future.
We’ve been hit hard but that’s why it is so important that we keep moving forward and come back as strong as possible.
Today, the GTHA Mayors and Chairs met to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the region and how our municipalities can work together on the economic restart and recovery.
We know the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area alone is projected to lose 355,000 jobs and 28% of GDP along with $894 million in lost wages and $3.7 billion in revenue losses for businesses. This will be felt right across the GTHA but it also threatens the provincial and national economies.
A strong recovery right here in the GTHA is crucial to healing the economic damage done by COVID-19 and helping the families and businesses all governments have been working to protect throughout this emergency.
Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy need the GTHA to come back stronger than ever when the restart begins.
We are determined to deliver this recovery and we agreed today that the GTHA municipalities will be working together to successfully and smoothly reopen our vital regional economy when the time comes.
We also discussed how we can in a consistent way achieve significant, necessary financial support from the other governments to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect our ability to contribute to the recovery. A strong recovery needs strong cities and regional governments.
We have agreed we will work together to share information about our respective financial positions and explore together measures we can advocate to the other governments which will help to ensure the financial stability of local and regional governments in the GTHA.
Our child care and recreation programs help parents get back to work.
Our emergency services keep people safe.
Our transit systems get people to work and home safely.
Our major infrastructure projects – often built in conjunction with the other governments – will help kick-start the recovery and create countless jobs.
Our economic development activities attract jobs and investment.
We built a strong and vibrant GTHA and we know that we will need to come back even stronger and as quickly as we can in order to keep Canada’s economy going.
With the cooperation and support of the provincial and federal governments, we are ready to rise to this challenge.”
Four People Charged in Mississauga Pedestrian Fail to Remain Fatality
Investigators from the Major Collision Bureau have charged four people in Mississauga’s most recent fatal fail to remain collision.
On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at approximately 8:40 p.m., the victim, a 61 year-old female from Mississauga, was struck by a south bound vehicle as she was crossing Mavis Road in the area of Knotty Pine Grove in the City of Mississauga. The vehicle did not remain and the victim, having suffered major injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Saturday, February 17, 2018 shortly before 7:00 p.m., Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM, a 60 year-old male from Brampton, and the driver believed to be responsible in this incident, surrendered to police at 22 Division. Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM has since been charged with Fail to Remain Cause Death.
Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, a 25 year old female from Brampton, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN a 28 year-old female from Brampton and Gowtham SATKUNARAJAH a 28 year-old male from Brampton have each been charged with Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident.
Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM will answer to his charge on March 12, 2018. Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN andGowtham SATKUNARAJAH will answer to their charges on Monday March 26, 2018 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton
Anyone who may have witnessed the collision, have dashboard video footage of the incident or who may have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact investigators with the Major Collision Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3710. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.
Justin Trudeau in India: Hug missing! Mounting pressure?
The much publicized and anticipated visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India was marred with questions. The questions were centered on the kind of welcome he would be given in the Sikh dominated state of Punjab. Also the famous hug by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being anticipated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally made his much-touted visit to India. He landed on the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi only to be received by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat not even a Cabinet Minister in Narendra Modi’s government.
He is presently the second rank Minister of State for Agriculture. That comes in complete contrast to the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government has generally displayed towards the visiting dignitaries. Only a couple of weeks ago, when the heads of the 10 ASEAN states arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t receive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the airport, as he has previously done with many leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, and Benjamin Netanyahu.
The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t join him is all surprising even when Prime Minister Trudeau visited Gujarat. This is unusual because the Indian Prime Minister has set a trend that he always accompanies head of the state when they visit his home state.
Even Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath did not show up, let alone accompany Prime Minister Trudeau to the Taj. However, during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 15 January visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Yogi Adityanath had received Netanyahu and his wife and shown them around as well as hosted a lunch for them. For first three days, none from the executive or the elected representative held any meeting with the delegation.
Media in India is trying to spread a message that the cold treatment given by Prime Minister could be because two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi – support the Khalistan movement. However, had that been the case his visit to Punjab would have got a similar response. However, the Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh rolled out a red carpet during his stay at Amritsar and even the two leaders held some fruitful discussions.
Thus putting an end to those criticisms that that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit was devoid of any warmth. Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh, for instance who met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau setting aside his earlier prejudice that he exhibited during the visit of Defence Minister Harjeet Singh Sajjan.
In recent months, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Canada, the United States and Australia have banned Indian officials from visiting gurudwaras and the moment started with Gurudwaras here in Toronto. Could that be the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not accord one of the warmest welcomes that he is known to provide? Or the use by Canada’s parliament of the term genocide to describe mass killings of Sikhs in India in 1984 has left the Indian Prime Minister disturbed? However, more than Prime Minister Modi, this could have left the Congress party in troubled waters, but that was also not the case as Amarinder Singh hails from the same party.
The lukewarm welcome to Prime Minister Trudeau can have its political ramifications too. Will it hamper the significant 2015 deal, in which Canada agreed to supply 3,000 metric tons of Uranium to power India’s atomic reactors?
Somewhere Prime Minister Modi has not taken the issue of non allowing entry of Indian officials to Gurudwaras and the statement on Genocide too lightly. Prime Minister Modi however has failed to understand that Canada cannot curtail the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizen.
Two nations perhaps failed to resolve the matter before Prime Minister boarded the flight from Canada and not welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau could be a tactical decision to put pressure on him. With Prime Minister Modi preferring to meet him at the far end of the tour has conveyed a lot about the myopic approach of Prime Minister Modi.