Ramallah recall: On India’s Palestine policy
Narendra Modi’s visit signals India’s strategy to grow ties with Israel and Palestine separately
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Palestine underlines the delicate balance New Delhi has adopted in this long-standing and seemingly intractable (असभ्य) conflict. India, which has been a champion of the Palestinian people’s national aspirations, has built strong ties with Israel in recent years. Last year Mr. Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel; the Ramallah visit has come just weeks after his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, visited India. On the other hand, late last year India voted along with a vast majority of member-states at the UN General Assembly against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Last week in Ramallah, the Palestinian National Authority’s administrative headquarters, Mr. Modi reiterated (बार बार दुहराना) India’s support for the Palestinian cause, saying it “hopes that Palestine soon becomes a sovereign and independent country in a peaceful atmosphere”. Both sides also signed a number of agreements for India-funded projects in the West Bank. India’s policy objective is clear and rooted in political realism. It wants to maintain the balance in its relationship with both Palestine and Israel, and strengthen bilateral ties with each separately.
This balance is vital for India, for which Israel is a source of defence equipment and agricultural technology. But Israel also faces political isolation (एकाकीपन) internationally over its occupation of the Palestinian territories and does not have diplomatic ties with most countries in West Asia. As reflected in the UNGA vote, international public opinion is overwhelmingly (ज़बर्दस्त ढंग से) against the occupation. India, which has vital interests in the Gulf and enjoys good ties with the region’s Muslim countries, cannot afford to be seen to be politically closer to Israel at the expense of ties with Palestinians. So it is not a coincidence that the Prime Minister’s visit to Palestine took place against the backdrop (पृष्ठभूमि) of India’s deepening ties with Israel. With the Ramallah visit, the message Mr. Modi is sending out is that India’s partnership with Israel is not at the expense of its principled support for the Palestinian cause. Still, changing nuances in India’s position were on display during the visit. Traditionally, India has supported the creation of an independent Palestine within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. According to this line, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and either pull out the Jewish settlements or do a land-swap with the Palestinians as part of a final agreement. Mr. Modi carefully avoided any reference to the borders or to the capital. In effect, India’s support for the two-state solution remains, but it has now stopped short of the specifics.
1. Intractable: given to resisting authority or another’s control
Synonyms: balky, contrary, contumacious, defiant, froward, incompliant, insubordinate, disobedient, obstreperous, rebel, rebellious, recalcitrant, recusant, refractory, restive, ungovernable, unruly, untoward, wayward, willful (or wilful)
Antonyms: amenable, biddable, compliant, conformable, docile, obedient, ruly, submissive, tractable
2. Reiterated: to say or state again
Synonyms: chime, din, iterate, rehearse, repeat
3. Isolation: the state of being alone or kept apart from others
Synonyms: aloneness, insulation, privacy, secludedness, seclusion, segregation, separateness, sequestration, solitariness, solitude
Antonyms: camaraderie, companionship, company, comradeship, fellowship, society
4. Overwhelmingly: to subject to incapacitating emotional or mental stress
Synonyms: crush, devastate, floor, grind (down), oppress, overcome, overmaster, overpower, prostrate, snow under, swamp, whelm
Antonyms: lose, underwhelm, fail, uncover, inspirit, surrender, yield, forfeit, not impress
5. Backdrop: the physical conditions or features that form the setting against which something is viewed
Synonyms: background, ground
Antonyms: center, focal point, focus, heart
Woods and trees: On the state of Indian forests
We must review the strategy to revive forests, and move away from monoculture plantations.
The Environment Ministry’s ‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ based on satellite imagery, may present a net positive balance in the form of 24.4% of India’s land area under some form of forest or tree cover, but this is but a broad-brush assessment. According to the report, forest and tree cover together registered a 1% rise over the previous estimate two years ago. However, such an estimate listing very dense, moderately dense, open and scrub forests mapped through remote sensing does not really provide deep insights (निरीक्षण) into the integrity (अखंडता) of the green areas. The emphasis in environmental policy to raise forest cover to 33% of the geographical area will yield some dividends. There has been an increase over the baseline cover of 20% at the turn of the century. Yet, tree cover is not the same as having biodiverse, old-growth forests. The ecosystem services performed by plantations that have a lot of trees grown for commercial purposes cannot be equated with those of an undisturbed assemblage (एकत्रीकरण) of plants, trees and animals. India may be endowed with 16 major forest types, and 221 types and sub-types based on the Champion and Seth classification, but retains very little of its ancient forests after centuries of pre-colonial and colonial exploitation. Latter-day development pressures are also taking their toll. Forest restoration should, therefore, aid the return of native vegetation.
In its audit of various regions, the Ministry’s report has calculated a cumulative (संचयी) loss of forests in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal of nearly 1,200 sq km. The impact of such a terrible loss must be seen against the backdrop of the Northeast representing a global biodiversity hotspot. Any gains achieved through remediation (इलाज) programmes in Odisha, Assam, Telangana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur cannot compensate for it adequately. Naturally, environmental economists have come to regard the calculation of national accounts of wealth and development as weak, because governments do not add the benefits of functions such as flood control and climate moderation to the value of forests. Such a failure erodes (कट जाना) the gains made by many communities, because lost natural capital contributes to material losses. India must review the programmes that it has been pursuing to revive forests, and move away from monoculture plantations that are favoured by even forest development corporations in many States. Scientific reforms to bring true nature back are needed. The latest assessment categorises more than 300,000 sq km of area as open forests with a tree canopy of 10-40%. These lands provide the opportunity to bring back diverse, indigenous trees. Such a measure, combined with a policy against allowing open cast mining, can bring about a renaissance (नवचेतना). Dedicated efforts will be required to protect the precious forests of the Northeast.
1. Insights: the ability to understand inner qualities or relationships
Synonyms: discernment, wisdom, perception, perceptiveness, perceptivity, sagaciousness, sagacity, sageness, sapience
Antonyms: density, dullness (also dulness), obtuseness, brainlessness, folly, foolishness, idiocy, imbecility, mindlessness, silliness, simplemindedness, simpleness, stupidity, witlessness
2. Integrity: conduct that conforms to an accepted standard of right and wrong
Synonyms: character, decency, goodness, honesty, morality, probity, rectitude, righteousness, rightness, uprightness, virtue, virtuousness
Antonyms: debauchery, degeneracy, degradation, depravity, perversion, pervertedness, sinfulness, crookedness, dishonesty, underhandedness, unscrupulousness
3. Assemblage: a mass or quantity that has piled up or that has been gathered over a period of time
Synonyms: accretion, accumulation, collection, cumulation, cumulus, gathering, lodgment (or lodgement), pileup
Antonyms: entity, item, single, unit
4. Cumulative: produced by a series of additions of identical or similar things
Synonyms: accretive, accumulative, additive, conglomerative, incremental
Antonyms: decremental, decrescent, degressive, regressive
5. Remediation: The action of remedying something, in particular of reversing or stopping environmental damage
6. Erodes: to damage or diminish by continued friction
Synonyms: chafe, corrade, abrade, fray, frazzle, fret, gall, rasp, rub, wear
Antonyms: build, neglect, construct, rebuild, ignore, preserve, fix
7. Renaissance: a period of high artistic or cultural development
Synonyms: golden age, belle époque
Antonyms: dark age
8. Monoculture: The cultivation of a single crop in a given area.