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The Missing Words

In diplomatic language, what is left unsaid conveys a lot more than what is actually spoken. During PM Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Palestine, he delivered a speech in the presence of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (below right), in which he endorsed a “sovereign, independent” Palestine. This was another first for India—all earlier statements by Indian diplomats and leaders have used the phrase “sovereign, united, viable, independent” when referring to Palestine.

By dropping just two words, Modi was signalling a departure from established positions and, more importantly, the Indian position that Israel would have to end its illegal occupation of all Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, in order for Palestine to achieve full independence and statehood. This also effectively rules out India’s support for the “two state solution” to the conflict and for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Sources say that India has been prodded by the US—specifically Donald Trump—to back its peace plan which entails New Delhi diluting its opposition to Israeli occupation.

Hey Ram

The mystery around the potentially damaging scandal involving BJP leader Ram Madhav, in charge of the party’s north eastern electoral campaign, has only deepened. The scandal surfaced when a local website called The NewsJoint, published an item hinting at a video, which purportedly shows Madhav in the company of two Naga women in a hotel room in Dimapur. The website was taken down after the BJP lodged a police complaint but locally the scandal is still big news in Nagaland. The BJP has hinted that the “fake” item was the handiwork of the current Chief Minister TR Zeliang of the Nagaland People’s Front, a former alliance partner but sources in Dimapur say the hidden hand behind the news item is the National Socialist Council of Nagaland which is demanding that elections be postponed till the ongoing peace talks reach an acceptable conclusion. Either way, Madhav’s task is no longer a bed of roses.

Road to Thimpu

Top Indian officials will be heading to Thimpu over the next few weeks as part of a calibrated exercise to brief Bhutan before it sits down for the next round of boundary talks with China due in 2018. The PM himself is likely to pay an official visit later. All this diplomatic activity is to do with the fallout of Doklam and China’s build up on its side of the border. Doklam is in Bhutanese territory but with Beijing’s aggressive expansionism, India wants to be clear on the position Bhutan will take while talking to the Chinese.

Officials from the PMO, including the National Security Advisor, MEA diplomats and senior army officers are in Thimpu already or en route.

Ahmedabad Blues          

Ahmedabad seems to be becoming out of bounds for NGOs which have a foreign connection. The latest example, which has got prominent headlines in the Swiss media and terse diplomatic exchanges between the two countries, is the inexplicable deportation of Kurt Vogele, a 75-year-old Swiss national, from Ahmedabad airport.

Vogele has been coming to India for the last 50 years, as a diplomat in New Delhi and representative of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), which comes under Switzerland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His abrupt deportation despite him having a valid visa, is being seen as connected to SDC’s funding of the Navsarjan Trust, which has been working to uplift dalits in Gujarat.

Vogle was in India in January 2017 on an invitation of the Malabar Union in Kerala. After Vogele complained officially, the Home Ministry has asked the Bureau of Immigration in Ahmedabad to explain the reasons for the deportation order.

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