NEW DELHI: At a time when the world is gripped by panic over the Coronavirus pandemic, a United Nations panel has been doggedly visiting world capitals making the case for a seven-decade-old issue, the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
Why the UN would want to spend so much money and time over an exercise of this kind is not clear, since its outcome may not be very different from countless General Assembly resolutions and UN Security Council votes. Nevertheless, the team has been on this worldwide effort for the last four years and finally landed up in Delhi.
A member of the committee attributed their visit to India’s “unwavering position on Palestine” while dismissing reports that it was seeking a mediatory role by Delhi. Cheikh Niang of Senegal, who chairs the panel, said India has long favoured a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.
He made no mention of India siding with Israel in a UN vote last year, on whether the Palestinian NGO Shahed should be given observer status in a UN agency. In doing so, India appeared to endorse Israel’s stand that Shahed had failed to disclose its links with Hamas, the militant Sunni organisation based in the Gaza Strip.
Despite his brief, Cheikh Niang insisted that the panel was “neither pro-Israel nor pro-Palestine”; it was only meant to get Palestinian rights while not being against the state of Israel. How one could be achieved without any cost to the other was not clarified.
He dismissed Trump’s peace plan as one-sided, the Palestinians had not been consulted and “Whatever you do, you have to take into account the global consensus.” Whether a global consensus exists on Palestine when even the Arab states of the region are building ties with Israel is of course another matter. But there is no doubt that given Israel’s steady encroachment on Palestinian land, a consensus needs to be found urgently.
The visit of the panel seemed to lack purpose and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s tweet reflected that.”Received delegation from the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Exchanged views on the latest developments in West Asia.”
Over to 2021 when India takes its place among the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, when doubtless, there will be more opportunity to show its steadfast support for the Palestinian cause.