U.S. on Israel — double standards or a double-edged sword?
December 24 – Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip ratchet up rocket fire towards Israel after Hamas ended a six-month ceasefire.
December 27 – The United States blames Hamas for breaking the ceasefire and provoking Israeli air strikes.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed concern about the escalating violence and called for immediate restoration of the ceasefire.
“We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there,” she said in a statement.
December 28/29 – Israel steps up air strikes. The death toll is now close to 350.
They say while the United States urged both India and Pakistan to show maximum restraint in the wake of last month’s militant attacks which killed 179 people in Mumbai, the Bush administration was quick to defend Israeli action and condemn Hamas. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe even called the Islamic group “thugs.”
Should India be miffed at Washington’s response?
Tensions are running high between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours after last month’s attack on India’s financial capital, with both India and Pakistan ratcheting up their rhetoric.
But is war an option? And here’s a question – did India neutralise its military option for conventional strikes against Pakistan, or even target militant training camps, by going nuclear in 1998?
The Congress government faced widespread anger at the security and intelligence failures that led to the Mumbai attacks and must go to the polls by May. A strong response could see people rally behind it.
Despite the rhetoric and, at times, jingoistic approach of some in Indian news television, analysts say it’s not in India’s larger interest to complain about U.S. policy, more so because of Kashmir.
They say a road map is in place to end the Arab-Israel conflict that calls for a Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel. There exists a Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators — the European Union, United States, Russia and United Nations, with former British prime minister Tony Blair as the envoy.
Can India afford, or rather, would India want similar international attention on Kashmir?
India’s own response to the escalation in violence in the Middle East has been finely calibrated. Maintaining a delicate balance, New Delhi urged “an immediate end to the use of force against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza” while noting the “cross-border provocations resulting from rocket attacks” in southern Israel.
New Delhi’s ties with Tel Aviv have only grown closer over the years although it remains sympathetic to the cause of Palestine, a support that India has extended from days of Yasser Arafat.
But the policymakers know only too well that it’s a tightrope walk for India. The government probably does not want Kashmir back on the agenda, more so at a time when the man on the street in Jammu and Kashmir shunned a perpetual fear of the gun for a date with democracy.
India will pin a lot of hope on a new dispensation in Jammu and Kashmir delivering on developmental goals and silencing the separatists’ shrill call for poll boycott and freedom.
So, with politics in the valley at the crossroads, would New Delhi want the K-word to be raised in the international forum again?
For U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, managing South Asia is a foreign policy priority. Obama has also hinted that he thinks a settlement between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is part of the equation.
There have also been media reports that Obama is toying with the idea of a South Asia envoy, and that might even be someone as high-profile as Bill Clinton.
India had warmed up to Clinton during his presidential years. But will New Delhi extend the hospitality to Clinton the envoy?
Would India want the Kashmir conundrum to raise its head at a time when violence in the valley is at a 20-year low?