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Vineet R. asked: Historically, what has been the Palestinian position on Kashmir?

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  • Adil Rasheed replies: According to the Ministry of External Affairs, “India’s support for the Palestinian cause is an integral part of our nation’s foreign policy”. In 1948, India was the only non-Arab-state among 13 countries that voted against the UN partition plan for Palestine in the General Assembly that led to the creation of Israel. In 1974, India became the first non-Arab state to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. In 1988, India became one of the first countries to recognise the Palestinian State. In 1996, India opened its Representative Office in Gaza, which was later shifted to Ramallah in 2003.

    The PLO and subsequently the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has stood by India across various multilateral fora over the decades. In 2000, the then Palestinian President Yasser Arafat reiterated his government’s support for India’s position that the Kashmir issue should be addressed within the Shimla Agreement of 1972.  Even Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani admitted on the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004 that the great Palestinian leader and the PLO did not support Kashmiri separatism because of what he described as their “secularist ideas”.

    Perhaps, Palestinians still remember how Pakistan’s former Islamist president Gen Zia-ul-Haq, when he held the rank of Brigadier, had led some Jordanian troops to attack the Palestinian civilian refugee camps in September 1970, in which up to 25,000 Palestinians are said to have been killed. The incident is remembered in world history as ‘Black September’.

    In his article “Fifty Years After ‘Black September’ in Jordan”, US counter-terrorism expert Bruce Reidel states that Crown Prince of Jordan Hasan bin Talal had told him that Gen Zia had effectively taken charge of part of the Jordanian attack on Black September. The fact has also been endorsed in an article published in Pakistani daily Dawn, which stated: “Thanks to his role in this action (referring to Black September), Ziaul Haq, a brigadier at that time, came to be remembered as the Palestinian killer in his own country.” Similarly, an article published in Pakistani daily The Express Tribune stated: “Even a then-obscure Pakistani Brigadier bearing the uplifting name of Ziaul Haq performed yeoman’s service for King Hussein by blatantly violating the terms of his secondment to the Jordanian army by taking part in the massacre.”

    It is ironic that Pakistan is today claiming itself to be a friend of Palestinians and is somehow linking their status to that of Indian Kashmiris, even though the only refugees displaced in the latter case are Kashmiri Pundits. The India–Palestine relationship stands strong as exemplified in February 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian premier to make an official visit to Palestine. He was conferred upon the ‘Grand Collar of the State of Palestine’, the highest civilian award of the land. Credit should be given to Indian diplomacy that has been able to convince the Palestinian leadership that its Israel policy is not hyphenated to its continued strong ties with Palestine.

    Posted on 16 March 2022

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.