Arabs said unhappy at India’s tepid response to Trump’s Jerusalem move
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Arabs said unhappy at India’s tepid response to Trump’s Jerusalem move

Saudi, Egyptian, and other Arab diplomats urge New Delhi to speak forcefully against US recognition of Israeli capital, but plea unlikely to prompt condemnation

A Kashmiri Muslim shouts slogans and holds a burning photograph of US President Donald Trump during a protest against a decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, held in Budgam, southwest of Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, December 8, 2017. (Dar Yasin/AP)
A Kashmiri Muslim shouts slogans and holds a burning photograph of US President Donald Trump during a protest against a decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, held in Budgam, southwest of Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, December 8, 2017. (Dar Yasin/AP)

Arab countries have urged India to issue a strong condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of  Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, after New Delhi put out very muted response to the proclamation, Indian media reported, in what is being seen as a further sign of a shift in India to a more pro-Israel policy.

A dozen Arab ambassadors and diplomats met last week with Indian officials led by Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar in New Delhi and urged India to make clear that it is against the recognition, The Indian Express reported on Friday, citing sources familiar with the meeting.

The diplomats came from several Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Tunisia, the UAE, and Kuwait.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also sent a message via diplomatic channels asking for Indian support for the Palestinian rejection of the US position, the report said.

Screen capture from video of Indian Minister of State, External Affairs MJ Akbar. (YouTube)

According to an Arab ambassador who was at the meeting, “the Indian statement was disappointing as there was no condemnation of the US president’s decision. We told the Indian side that they should come up with a stronger statement.”

However, Akbar reiterated India’s statement, which only said that the country’s policy would be unaffected by the Trump declaration. “India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country,” the statement said.

In an address December 6 from the White House, US President Donald Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue. He described his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. However, the change in policy infuriated Palestinians and sparked protests in many Arab countries and Muslim regions.

US President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)

In the days after the Jerusalem recognition, hundreds of Muslims protested in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The protesters marched at several places in the main city of Srinagar and other parts of the region after Friday prayers, chanting “Down with America” and “Down with Israel.” In some places, the demonstrators also burned US and Israeli flags.

Despite India’s close ties with Israel over the last two decades, New Delhi has traditionally been pro-Palestinian, reflecting its long ties with the Non-Alligned movement and its large Muslim population. However, this has begun to change in recent years, mainly since the election of  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi visit the water desalination plant at Olga beach on July 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Netanyahu is set to visit India in January, following the high-profile visit of Modi to Israel in July, when he spent three days being shown the country by Netanyahu, but didn’t go to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority government. It was the first-ever visit to Israel by an Indian prime minister.

Abbas visited India in May, meeting with Modi to discuss cooperation and strengthening ties.

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