Experts Say India’s Abstain Vote at UNHRC Consistent With Lean Toward Israel

India’s abstention from a U.N. Human Rights Council vote to adopt a condemnation of alleged Israeli war crimes was another mark in the South Asian country’s warming relations with the Jewish state, experts in India said, according to the The New Indian Express.

Commentators in India described the country’s decision to abstain — it was one of only five countries to do so — as “dramatic” and an “unprecedented achievement for Israel,” according to the report. As a leader of the major U.N. voting bloc the Non-Aligned Movement, India was always seen as a reliable supporter of the Palestinian cause, it said.

The Israeli ambassador to India, Daniel Carmon, even tweeted Israel’s explicit appreciation of India for Friday’s abstention, saying, “We appreciate votes by members of @UN_HRC, including #India, who did not support yet another anti Israel bashing resolution. We thank them.”

Indian reports over the weekend said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had received a phone call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the night before the vote, though the details of their conversation remains unknown.

India’s abstain vote was inevitably coupled with the recent announcement that Modi was set to become the first sitting premier to visit the Jewish state, perhaps as early as this fall.

The abstention was “consistent with previous actions, showing India is leaning toward Israel,” said Dinesh J. Sharma, an associate research professor at the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at SUNY-Binghamton.

Warming Indian-Israeli relations are strongly rooted in “intelligence sharing, defense initiatives … and technology,” said Sharma.

“India is still walking a fine tightrope … If you asked them if they’re changing their stance, they’ll say nothing has changed. But we can tell from this action, consistent with previous actions, that [Modi] is leaning toward Israel,” he said.

And indeed, officials in New Delhi indicated soon after the vote that it did not signal waning support for the Palestinian cause.

But it may indicate an overarching pivot “closer to Western powers, such as the United States,” which was the only country to vote no on the UNHRC resolution, which passed by a large margin with 41 votes, said Sharma.

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