Gaza crisis triggered by Hamas attack: EAM

The Asian Age.  | Sridhar Kumaraswami

India, All India

Says humanitarian laws must be upheld; decries casualties

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (Image: PTI)

New Delhi: Strongly articulating India’s views and speaking for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who could not attend the “extraordinary joint meeting” of the Brics grouping convened by the grouping’s Chair South Africa in virtual mode on Tuesday evening, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar (EAM) reminded the Brics leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, that the “immediate (West Asia) crisis was triggered by the terrorist attack (on Israel) of October 7” (carried out by Palestinian militant group Hamas).

He added that “where terrorism itself is concerned, none of us should or can compromise with it”. In a strong criticism of the actions of Hamas without naming it, the EAM further pointed out that “hostage taking is equally unacceptable and cannot be condoned”, a reference to the Hamas taking Israeli hostages into Gaza after the raid on October 7.

However, in a veiled message to Israel, the EAM also strongly condemned civilian casualties in the (Israel-Hamas) conflict. He pointed out that the “universal obligation to observe international humanitarian law” cannot be circumvented.

He expressed grief over the "immense human suffering" in the Gaza Strip, advocated restraint and de-escalation, and referred to the current humanitarian assistance and ongoing development assistance for long by India to the Palestinian people and batted for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.

Apart from the EAM and President Xi, the meeting was also attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, (the host) South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Egyptian President President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi apart from some other leaders.

In August this year, the five-nation Brics (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) had agreed by consensus to expand the grouping with effect from January 1, 2024, to include six new member-nations - Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to reports, Putin said a meeting the BRICS grouping can help reach a political settlement in the Gaza conflict.  

The EAM began his remarks by saying, "Let me begin by thanking President Ramaphosa for convening this extraordinary meeting. I speak for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who could not join us today. We are gathered to discuss the deeply concerning situation in the Middle East, with a particular focus on Gaza. South Africa has rightly taken the initiative to convene the Brics, and also to include those who would be part of the group in due course. I convey Prime Minister Modi's greetings to all the leaders, virtually present."

The EAM then said, "The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza is causing immense human suffering, including to civilians, elderly, women and children. We welcome all efforts of the international community towards de-escalation. Right now, there is an urgent need to ensure that humanitarian aid and relief effectively and safely reach the population of Gaza. It is also imperative that all hostages are released. We believe that there is a universal obligation to observe international humanitarian law."

Jaishankar pointed out, "We are all aware that the immediate crisis was triggered by the terrorist attack of 7th October. Where terrorism itself is concerned, none of us should or can compromise with it. Hostage taking is equally unacceptable and cannot be condoned. Subsequent developments have deepened our concern even more as we witness large scale civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis. We strongly condemn any death of civilians."

On the course ahead, the EAM said, "Along with the need for restraint and immediate humanitarian support, India also emphasises peaceful resolution of conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy. Prime Minister Modi has spoken to several leaders in the region and across the world in this context. He has highlighted the need to create conditions for peace and restart direct and meaningful peace negotiations. We believe that the concerns of the Palestinian people must be addressed in a serious and sustainable manner. This can only happen with a two-state solution that is based on peaceful co-existence. We have been consistently supportive of international efforts towards this end."

Further reminding the grouping about India's development assistance and thanking Egypt for facilitating India's current humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people in Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, the EAM said, "Over the years, India has supported the socio-economic welfare of the Palestinian people and strengthening of their national institutions. Our development partnership is geared towards these objectives. We continue to provide assistance both bilaterally and through the UN."

"Our economic assistance to Palestine, developmental projects there and financial support to Palestinian Authority reflect our position. India remains supportive of the UN Relief and Welfare Agency's (UNRWA) role and have been contributing $5 million annually. In response to the crisis in Gaza, India has also sent 70 tonnes of humanitarian assistance including 16.5 tonnes of medicines and medical supplies. We thank Egypt for facilitating this delivery. Our relief assistance will continue."

The EAM concluded his remarks saying, "The international community is today facing a very complex situation that has many dimensions. We have to address them all; and yet, have to prioritise. Our endeavour should be to both make a difference on the ground immediately while also creating conditions for lasting solutions. This exchange of views can be helpful in that regard and I thank South Africa once again for gathering us all at this difficult time."