U.S. on Israel — double standards or a double-edged sword?

December 30, 2008

December 24 – Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip ratchet up rocket fire towards Israel after Hamas ended a six-month ceasefire.

December 27 – Israel launches air strikes on Gaza in response killing more than 200 people in Gaza, the highest one-day death toll in 60 years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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.

In another part of the world, there are now murmurs. Some sections of Indian media have raised eyebrows over what they call a clear case of double standards on the part of Washington.

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.

But would India accommodate international intervention?

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?


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When the foolish Indian politicians will realize that history is a proof of USA’s bias for Pakistan. Further had ever in the history US has supported India for anything?

As compared to USA the more dependable ally is Russia. US has always acted only for self interest and their views, rules are different for different countries.

Since Pakistan will serve their interest of waging onslaught against Taliban how can one think that it will give fair judgment even if Pakistan is grossly proven terror hub.

India should not depend on USA as a friend or ally.

Posted by Devesh Misra | Report as abusive

Indian leaders should take lesson from Israel and plan for clinical attacks on Terrorist camps, which might not lead to full scale war and economy too. This kind of attack would give strong message to US and dog nation Pakistan( I still doubt is it nation?).

Posted by Nagesh | Report as abusive

America has played both sides against the middle in the conflict, selling war toys to India and Pakistan. Except for worrying about Islamists getting hold of nuclear material we don’t seem to care which side attacks which side as long as they buy weapons from us. This is another example of how the British and their allies managed to leave time bombs ticking all over the world. Everywhere they subdivided the land and created new countries they also set up situations that insured war would break out eventually, leaving the future generations the task of sorting things out.There should be an international ban on weapons trading

Posted by Will Shirley | Report as abusive

I agree with Devesh, India should not look to US , rather to Russia, US is any ways going to become weaker and weaker day by day , We should rather build a regional alliance including Russia and possible China.
US is never worried about ant thing else other than its own agenda

Posted by sandeep | Report as abusive

I believe US did the right thing to ask India for restraint. India cannot carry out air strikes and get away like the Israelis are doing in Gaza. Unlike Palestine, Pakistan Air Force has the capability to intercept indian bombers and counterstrike Indian airbases. South Asia is relatively stable because India and Pakistan both are strong countries. Conflict only takes place when one side is strong and other is weak like what is happening in Gaza now.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive


This is looking very interesting.India would become more closer to Israel & Russia than with US after Obama Government.If the congress loses power then we will see major changes in Indian Polity. I expect Army rule in India shortly may be in 2 years which will be suported wholeheartedly by Indian citizens.Don’t worry about US it has lost its influence in Asia, china & Russia will play significant role & they will give India room also.Pakistan will move closer to US.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

If you can start with a date earlier than 24 December….let’s say when Britain decided upon Palestine to be a Jewish Homeland.

Posted by Majo | Report as abusive

Vijay, why Army rule? Indian Army has an unblemished record of fidelity to Constitution. There was a bit of a brouhaha in the late 1960s when people talked to a susceptible Chief of Army Staff and he listened. Government and Army took care of that without fuss. Incidentally, there are reasons Army cannot act against political authority: there is a series of checks on the Army, which the Army loyally accepts but IMHO are quite insulting.

Posted by Ravi | Report as abusive

@ Devesh
U.S. has a strategic interest in Paksitan. At a time when the U.S. wants to make progress in Afghanistan, it can not afford that Pakistan army is distracted into fighting a war against India. Also, no matter how supportive ISI is of the Taliban or the Islamic militants, U.S. has no choice but to support Pakistan and keep it stable. Pakistan is plagued with corrupt politics and a highly unstable government. The chaos in that country could end up disrupting the peace in the whole region.
It is in the best interest of India to try to apply diplomatic pressure on Pakistan into forcing it to ban or destroy millitant camps on its grounds. While this dauting task looks highly improbable, it’s worth a shot.

Posted by between the lines | Report as abusive


Democracy as a theme can be successful in countries where the quality of education & grass root politics is not corrupted this can push a country agenda for social,political,economical, international goals in a ordersly fashion.Unfortunately for India the political representation in the grass root has been influenced by people with less credibility. Implementation of the law by bureacracy & the police has been very lax, the quality of people joining both these bodies has been worsening.The will of political leaders to make some tough calls is completely absent.

Unless you comb village to district to state to nation & reinvigorate traditional values of honesty,moral superiority,tolerance the decay will be fast.Just to cite some examples when i was in my studies 15 years back, it was important for you not only to work hard for good grades but also to make sure you got those grades with absolute integrity.You were willing to forego in later lifes temptations of every form to stick to these values courageously,the people who influenced such a process were the teachers who had a unadulterated commitment post independance for success of India. Today teachers who shape the moral fabric of this country are very uninspiring & corruption seems to be seeded right in the doors of a school to a college admission. That to me is the biggest lacunae i see in shaping people of this great nation.

When you chide honesty, your defenses of meritocracy, creativity & morality are sacrificed.This is very inconsistent with the Sub Continent values.This to me is enlarging the trust deficit, it was very surprising that heads of 2 government had many flip flops in this mumbai attacks.There was not one reassuring statement which said criminals who did this will be punished.What was most surprising was the primeminister of India never pulled pranab mukherjee for the most foolish statements he was making in this entire crisis & making not just a mockery of himself but the people whom he represents also.For the larger good of this country all political leaders need to unanimously decide to sacrifice their intent to govern & rather allow the army to govern since that is one institution where a majority is professionally trained.They can perhaps bring the rotten system back to a workable sustainable governance of a billion people.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

As noted by veteran journalist Irfan Husain, “Pakistan is the only country in the world which negotiates with a gun to its own head”. Since 9/11, Pakistan has drained the US of USD 26 billion.
As far as the talk, of asking the Army to take over the civilian government in India, goes, I would just like to point out that “Power Corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely”. It won’t be long before someone in the Army develops megalomaniacal designs and thrusts his authority on the Indian polity.
So, I guess the “stunted” democracy that we have is a small price to pay.

Posted by Gaurav | Report as abusive


The stunted democracy you are talking about is heading to malaise.It would be foolish to assume if you ignore the trend of a section of the society who are polluting the ambitions of this country.You cannot progress as a nation when democratic parties compete for power, there is a big trust deficit. With the army around & despite the megalomaniac desires there is one thing you can be assured about safety of life, property & equality.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

I am hugely relieved that we’re not like Israel. State military operations against civilians are no different from acts of terror by Lashkar or any other group. Groups like Hamas and Laskhar base their identity and draw their legitimacy from acts of repression/terror by the states they fight against. So when Israel strikes civilians in the name of destroying Hamas, killing civilians in the process, they give more fodder for jihadist ideology everywhere. India’s actiosn until now have made a lot of people in India very proud. It is hard to be restrained at this point but in the long end it will serve our interests best. War-mongers have not got the PM’s ear so far, thankfully. The US would do good to restrain Israel.

Posted by Sudha | Report as abusive

if u want peace
work for justice

Posted by fashaikh | Report as abusive

@ Sudha,
Only if India had also had taken same actions a couple of decades ago as Israel in gaza now..Pakistan would not have aquired nukes and would not have been threat to Indian citizens. Stop bragging on your gandhian principles and wake up to real world.

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

I am a pakistani whose entire family roots go back to india and i still have plenty of family living there.the attacks in mumbai were sickening to watch and as they were happening I know the drum beats were had begun.the issue of kashmir is something that just HAS TO be dealt with by both countries as soon as possilble. we are two nuclear armed nations with an already troubled past. if we sink to level of israelis,regardless of what the other side wants to claim. we are both finished. both indian and pakistan have huge populations compared to israel and palestine so the number of people would reach the thousands very quickly. both have religious fanatic groups who would use war to their advantage by making themselves stronger and carrying out more attacks.look, yes the mumbai attacks were bad, but pakistan has been dealing with its own issues of terrorisim for a while now and the extremist are getting stronger. a war with india is only going to force the pakistani go get even stronger with these religious groups to use them inside india, the ungovernable region of NWFP is a problem for not just india but pakistan also, afghanista, and even china. forget the U.S army and its coalition forces. we need our coalition forces. that’s the only chance we have.

Posted by ali | Report as abusive

I think India has already got IAEA and NSG clearances, we can very well get support in the field of nuclear energy from any developed nation. It would rather be better for india to deal with a country which looks at india as an equal in trade. if the US can look for its best interests so should india. why do we need to but equipment and technology from US companies? it shall serve india best to put on hold any tenders being given to US companies. This will send the right message across.

Posted by ammar | Report as abusive

Umair – Its not the US that has caused India to show restraint. It is India itself, and the nature of democratic societies. There is a democratic government in Pakistan now, and they are being given a chance to demonstrate good faith. Even with all this evidence, if they fail to execute justice, there will be cross-border action, regardless of Pakistani jets or armies.

Posted by Svik | Report as abusive

india can’t dare attack Pakistan.. because its not that asymmatric as israel and Palestine.. yeah.. india is 7 times in size to Pakistan.. but Pakistan has one of the best armies in the world..
so the solution can’t be any kind of war.. this will worse the situation but india needs to look into it’s own internal turmoil.. india is an extremely diversified country and she has it’s own problems..
and if india quit Kashmir, she has Illegitimately possession of.. South Asia would turn into a hub of peace..

Posted by Nadeem | Report as abusive

I totally agree with Svik, in my opinion India is the epitome of democracy. It’s hard to find any other country with such diversity and still an effective governance. The nature of Indians is always to look at positives and work for the betterment. Todays India is proudly an accepted nuclear state and it is the only country to have earned this status as well the respect of the international community. Look at the other countries apart from the P5 – Israel(opacity), Pakistan(A.Q.Khan), North Korea, Iran. Its is an obvious truth that India is different. Its the worlds 2nd largest population, achieved independence just 61 years back and it has a mission on the moon. Indians comprise of the worlds largest english-speaking workforce. 3 Indian businessmen at the height of the stock market boom were in the top 5 worlds richest men. And just a recent news, the worlds largest integrated oil refinery is in India. Its a land of achievement.

Even though India has 2 not-so-friendly neighbours, and bangladeshi immigrants, the sri-lankan LTTE to have to exist with. It has always been cordial and co-operative to everyone. We dont believe in anyone’s destruction, only in co-existence.

Posted by ammar | Report as abusive

If there is any cross-border action, there will be swift and massive retaliation by Pakistan. You need to make an effort to understand Pakistan in the muslim world. This is a unique country, a muslim nation of 160 million people armed with nuclear weapons, want to live in peace with honour and dignity. Just remember this is not an Iraq or an Afghanistan, you have to be clear of the choices you make because you will have to own the consequences. Having stated this, cross-border action will be suicidal for India and nothing less.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

…..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.”

Blindness conveniently afflicts so many people in times like these.

Somehow I doubt that missiles flying over the Pakistan/Indian border from either direction would result in only limited airstrikes. The Mumbai attacks were carried out by non-state terrorists, and showed the faults in both Pakistan and India. In this case, Hamas has tried to behave like a ‘state-actor’, i.e. a legitimate government, but has played its hand very badly by demonstrating that it has control over the missiles. Previously, they could hide by saying that they have little control over Islamic Jihad. Then they declared a cease-fire and most of the missile activity stopped. Now that the cease-fire has expired, the missiles are flying.

I am no blind supporter of Israel, but rest-assured if missiles were falling behind my house I would want to declare war in the people who sent it. Israel has been remarkably restrained so far, despite the fact that Hamas continues to launch missiles into Israel.

In a time of war, ALL targets are legitimate, no matter how closely they store the missiles to their wives and children.

Posted by Robert Pratt | Report as abusive

Palestinian terrorists will massacre all Israeli civilians if given a chance. That is a fact and they already proclaimed this to the world many times. The only reason they have not done this is because the Israelis are better armed and have more accurate weapons. Don’t fool yourselves by supporting these terrorist for they have no respect for anybody and they will kill you too if they have a chance. So, you better wake up and see the reality of the situation. If you give your hands to the Palestinian terrorists or any Islamic terrorist they will surely bite it and eat you too. That is just the fact. Do you think that if any of these Islamic terrorist ever rule your country or wherever you are that it will become a peaceful and kumbaya place. Just look at what the Talibans have done to women and anybody who do not share their beliefs. DEATH and misery, so, make your choice and I hope you don’t get the “herd mentality” as a result of the result of all the biased reporting that is being broadcast by the media. Think for yourself.

Posted by Garry | Report as abusive

Power. Israel has it, but uses it sparingly due to international interference. Hamas has very little power and therefore hides behind international interference while being as disruptive as possible to Israel. Hamas and other like minded Palestinian groups are well aware that they will never succeed in taking back Gaza or Golan, but interference from Europe, the US, and other Middle eastern nations empowers them to fight a protracted war with Israel, preventing the onset of any peace. In the end, if real peace is desired, then power must prevail, and either one side or the other must be the victor. Israel has the power; let them use it and they will solve this problem on their own.

Posted by Matthew L. | Report as abusive

I’m always curious as to what it’s going to take for my fellow americans to change their point of view on Israel. 77 more civilians killed in one day, hundreds killed in a couple weeks of Israeli terror, they’re blocking food support. I can’t imagine any worse version of terror than starving out your enemy, I mean 80% of the people in the Gaza region on partly or fully dependent on those food rations.

It just turns into a chicken-egg argument, who did it first. It’s stupid, for every one person killed by Hamas, the IDF kills 50, Hamas isn’t in the right, both are wrong but it amazes me how we give Israel a pass on everything.

It all stems from soundbites, if Israel blows up a school with one gunman inside and it kills 100 kids also we just brush it off to collateral damage. If a leader of a country says they want Israel gone that’s what we stick to, words are what matter to us, not actions.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

Pakistani leaders and Pakistani citizens should understand that being a nuke state doesn’t mean that you can do anything to your neighbours.

Posted by Guru | Report as abusive

if u want peace
work for justice
– Posted by fashaikh

Wrong. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” – known since the times of ancient Rome. By the way you spell it looks like the probability of you knowing Latin is very low. So here’s the translation: “If you wish for peace, prepare for war”.
And if you happen to encounter a thug armed with a club, or knife, or (in case of Israel) Qassam rocket, you can cry for justice all you want – it won’t help. On the other hand, a Parabellum (aka Luger – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luger_P08_p istol) would. A Merkava tank would help even more.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive