Indian diplomacy and strategic thinking reminds us of Balarama

Recently, at UNSC India abstained from voting on the Israel-Hamas conflict. And today I read this article. As reported, the Israeli head of counter-terrorism urges India to declare Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Let’s recap our modern history a bit.
In the 1971 Bangladesh war, when odds were stacked against India, Israel helped us with arms. This was despite India’s opposition to Israel’s formation in 1948.
In 1999, during the Kargil war, when the US had sanctioned India, Israelis helped us with their laser-guided missiles.
During the Balakot airstrikes, IAF used Israeli missiles.
In calling out Pakistani terror outfits, Israel stood with India.
Yet, with the UNSC voting for inquiry against Israel, India stood ‘neutral’. The entire world knows that Hamas was the aggressor and Israel had the right to self-defence. Yet, why did India not vote against the call for inquiry and stand with its greatest ally? Trust me, that’s not an overstatement. Israel stood with India in 1971 when the US was against us. She helped us despite American sanctions during the Kargil war. They aided us against their greatest partner! Yet, we failed them.
India supports the Palestinian cause. But technically, the recent conflict at the Gaza strip was against Hamas and not the west bank. India’s neutrality, in this case, is not Strategic Non-Alignment. It is ‘Strategic Paralysis’. It’s a fear that going against Hamas would upset the ‘Arab world’, whereas even the latter is against the former.

Ancient lessons for modern strategic thinking

I always wonder why Adi Shankaracharya called Krishna a Jagadguru? It was not because he was an idealist with toxic innocence. Not because he delivered the song celestial Bhagavad Gita, but for his pragmatism. He tried every means to stop the conflict of Mahabharata. Yet, with taking sides, he was crystal clear. He tried solving the problem at hand instead of claiming a moral high ground and preaching to people.
Contrast this with his elder brother Balarama. When the warring sides were rallying all the support for the Kurukshetra war, Balarama stayed ‘Neutral’. He wielded significant influence on both sides. Yet, with all due respect to him, instead of bringing them to the table and mediating a solution, he kept delivering platitudes of morality and went on a pilgrimage!


India dreams of being a Vishwaguru. But to be one, we must start thinking like one. In the recent Israel-Hamas conflict, India could have taken a clear stand against Hamas, by designating it. This would have shown clarity in Indian strategic thinking since the Palestinians (and much of the Arab world) don’t go well with Hamas. Also, this would have been a fair payback to what Israel has been doing for India. It is imperative to reinforce that we are not against Palestinians, but against the extremists hijacking their cause, like Krishna was not against Hastinapura, but with the blind extremism of Duryodhana.
Finally, we share a healthy relationship with both Israel and Palestine. Hence, it is in our favour to resolve this long-standing conflict, rather than abstain from taking any stand on it. In this process, we may find solutions to our own similar problems. But to do so, India must stop being a Balarama and start calling a spade a spade. This will be the beginning of India’s journey to be a world power for peace and stability.

Related Article: Balarama: The Fourth Pillar of Duryodhana’s arrogance


Prasad Kulkarni is a Data and Analytics professional. At work, he analyses historical data and ponders over historical events otherwise.

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