India’s silence on attacks by Islamic terrorist organizations against Israeli citizens on its soil can bring it no benefits. Far from it, it could actively harm Indian diplomacy.
Monday’s assassination attempt on the wife of an Israeli diplomat not five hundred meters from the prime minister’s house in New Delhi, which injured her and three Indians, prompted muted condemnation from the Indian government. Evidently, the perpetrators felt completely at home carrying out this operation in a country that at least institutionally appears has no hassles with the butchering of Jewish civilians.
Last year, India’s response was similarly one of deafening silence when the Palestinian ambassador praised the “martyrs” who carried out a terrorist attack in the Israeli city of Eilat, killing six civilians and injuring thirty, as a “quality operation.”
For some strange reason, the mandarins at the Ministry of External Affairs believe that turning a blind eye to such atrocities bolsters India’s West Asia credentials and prevents attacks at home. It is a short sighted form of appeasement that masquerades as diplomacy.
The convenience of gaining a vote bank at home by tacitly accepting the unacceptable has put India in a diplomatic bind from which there is little face to be saved. On one hand both the Americans and Israelis will be demanding explanations from the government as to how this could happen in a high security area and why India did not express indignation when the Palestinian ambassador was encouraging more attacks on Jews?
In the absence of concrete clues, the shadow of suspicion has been cast wide. India now has little option but to investigate the Palestinian mission in light of their ambassador’s past statements. That alone sours the goodwill the Palestinian cause had in New Delhi.
So what now of India’s support to said cause? Should any Palestinian involvement become clear, their expulsion or imprisonment would by India’s own yardstick of silence cost the country its much valued hypothetical Arab “street cred.”
Should it turn out that India’s Iranian “friends” and/or their Hezbollah allies colluded in this event, the matter becomes much worse. New Delhi can complain to the high heavens that Pakistan does not give it the right of hot pursuit into their territory. But there are about 850 Indian troops stationed in Lebanon under United Nations mandate. If India receives credible intelligence of Hezbollah planning an attack, does it send its forces in Lebanon on a seek and destroy mission? If not, all its talk of “hot pursuit” into Pakistan turns out to be just hot air. The country loses what little military credibility it has.
What of India’s hard fought oil and gas concessions from Tehran? After all, it doesn’t want to “subsidize those who engage in terrorism” against it which is the main argument New Delhi raises in objection to the construction of pipelines through Pakistan.
The pressure that European nations and the United States have exerted on India to give up its trade with Iran will not be harder to resist. If indeed Iran is proven to be responsible for this week’s attack and India does not give up its lucrative trade with the Islamic republic, it encourages the Iranians to go ahead with more such attacks on Indian soil.
India has been very keen to avoid any pointed criticism of Iran by the international community at large but will now have no option but to directly point fingers at Tehran or lose both credibility and trust with the West by effectively hushing up the incident.
What India’s diplomats need to realize is that words are cheap and terrorists and regimes who support them are not floppy eared Labrador puppies. A well timed and even handed condemnation of the Palestinian ambassador, possibly his expulsion, and frequent demarches to the Iranian ambassador every time his president engages in antisemitic rhetoric would have been the cheaper options. Today, thanks to its pusillanimity, India will have to pay a very heavy price, diplomatically, politically and in all probability economically.