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Amid Israel-Hamas conflict, India needs to maintain Iran ties tactfully: Ex-diplomats

Editor's ChoiceAmid Israel-Hamas conflict, India needs to maintain Iran ties tactfully: Ex-diplomats

‘New Delhi need not get swayed by speculation that Iran may have played a role in supporting the Hamas attack’.

New Delhi

In the backdrop of India and Iran inching closer to finalising a long-term agreement for Chabahar Port after narrowing down differences, former diplomats and experts caution New Delhi against coming to conclusions and hastily taking a stand over the speculation that Iran might have played a role in the Hamas attack on Israel that has left thousands of people dead.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already shown solidarity with Israel, but New Delhi need not get swayed by speculation that Iran may have played a role in supporting the Hamas attack, said a former diplomat.

“Diplomacy and trade ties cannot be based on presumptions,” he said, insisting that India need not overreact or even form a strategy based on Israel’s claims about a distinct Iranian footprint in the Hamas attack.

On the possibility of Iranian role, former ambassador to Israel, Navtej Sarna said speculation is going on, but if it really comes out that Iran is involved, people are not unnecessarily keen to spread the conflict.

“I would think people would be cautious than rash,” said Ambassador Sarna, adding that it is not going to be easy to say with conviction that this is at the behest of Iran.

The conflict and the repeated mention of Tehran in its context has fuelled apprehensions about the impact on Indian trade with the country. India’s geopolitical goals in the Gulf range from ensuring its energy security through smooth oil purchase to standing up to the Chinese hegemony, but the weeks ahead would determine if India ends up facing any setback on these fronts.

Iran’s Chabahar port is of huge significance for India because of its strategic location, accessibility to Afghanistan and Central Asia. As we have seen in the past, the shadow of US-Iran conflicts could not jeopardise India’s strategic connectivity interests so there is fair possibility of the port deal surviving the shivers caused by the current crisis in the Gulf.

Former Indian diplomat Anil Trigunayat said the humanitarian catastrophe that may follow the Israel-Hamas conflict is likely to further increase the revenge-taking which has been going on in the Palestinian issue.

On the stakes of India in peace in the region, Trigunayat said Israel is a strong and strategic partner of India and the Prime Minister has very clearly criticised terrorism against civilians. The only country which has some leverage over both Israel and Palestine is the US. But there are elections in that country but some lobbies operate in the country, so when the tempers are high it doesn’t work out.

According to Indian government’s data, there are around 18,000 Indian nationals studying and working in Israel. According to the Indian embassy in Israel, as yet, there no reports of them facing any problems or any of them having asked that their return be facilitated. Apart from minor injuries to an Indian nurse there are no reports of injuries to any Indian even as the first batch of 230 Indians was flown back to the country under Operation Ajay. Indian Navy ships are also likely to be deployed if the need arises.

Meanwhile, Indian ambassador to Israel Sanjiv Singla advised Indians in that country to remain calm as the embassy is working for their safety and welfare. “This is a difficult time but remain calm and vigilant and follow the local security guidelines. The embassy is there to help and thank all the people sending their wishes and blessings. We are monitoring the situation and stay tuned to the embassy for any further updates,” said Singla.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu also held a telephonic call with Modi following which the Indian Prime Minister said on social media site X, “I thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for his phone call and providing an update on the ongoing situation. People of India stand firmly with Israel in this difficult hour.”

Earlier, Israeli ambassador in New Delhi, Naor Gilon, appreciated the supportive tweets of Prime Minister Modi. “We will need strong support of Indian friends. India again is very influential country in the world it is a time for explaining to terrorists that you don’t mess with the wrong people,” he said.
Gilon said he was overwhelmed by the support received from Indians in general, with some even offering to volunteer. “I had, by the way, quite a few Indians who wanted to volunteer and I told them thank you very much. We fight our own fights,” he said.

“We haven’t asked for any help from India, I am not sure if we need anything,” he said. He added Israel never asks anyone to come and fight for it. We don’t want others to fight our fight. It was always our way. It’s true that the Americans are helping us through supply of ammunition. But other than that, I don’t want anyone to come to my aid.”

A representative of the Israeli embassy in New Delhi said they have asked their nationals in India to remain aware and alert.

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