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Human rights group urges India to cease military ties with Israel

Human Rights Forum lament over India's deepening economic and military ties with Israel, drawing attention to Adani's sale of combat drone to Israel as genocide deepens in Gaza.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting during the India-Israel Business Summit in New Delhi, on 15 January 2018 (Money Sharma/AFP)

The Indian government should cease all ties with Israel that implicate it in the "ongoing genocide" in Gaza, an Indian human rights group has said, referencing a recent report that an Indian company had sent combat drones to Israel for potential use in Gaza.

In a statement released on Friday, the Human Rights Forum (HRF) said it was outraged by both India's feeble diplomatic response to Israel's campaign in Gaza as well as its willingness to continue trading military hardware that may contribute to the devastating scenes unfolding in the besieged territory.

"We demand that the Indian government cancel, with immediate effect, all such deals with Israel. We are daily witness to the deliberate slaughter of Palestinians, many of them women and children," the statement read.

"Shamefully, India has till date not rescinded existing business deals with Israel nor has it outrightly and clearly condemned Israel for its inhumanity against the Palestinians," the statement read.

The Indian government signed a call for a ceasefire in December 2023 but refused to back South Africa's case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in which it accused Israel of genocide.

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"Such performative political signaling by India is repulsive," the statement added.

The Indian government has also agreed to send thousands of Indian workers to Israel to assist with a labour shortage in the country, following its decision to cancel the work permits of tens of thousands of Palestinian workers after the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

Like several trade unions across the country, the HRF said it opposed this decision. 

"We are opposed to India's fast-tracking of Israeli recruitment of Indian migrant workers to replace outlawed Palestinian labour.

"Apart from being complicit with Israel, this also reneges on its own responsibility to provide safe, secure and decently paid jobs to our own underemployed and unemployed poor," the statement added.

Indian workers align to submit registration forms as they seek employment in Israel during a recruitment drive at the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Lucknow, capital of India's Uttar Pradesh state on January 25, 2024. Long lines of Indian men queued on January 25, applying for jobs in Israel as recruiters seek to plug employment gaps with the conflict against Hamas in Gaza now in its fourth month. Naeem ANSARI / AFP
Indian workers lining up to submit registration forms as they seek employment in Israel, on 25 January 2023 (Naeem Ansari/AFP)

The HRF reserved special condemnation for the Adani Group, which had sent 20 Hermes 900 drones it had co-produced, under Adani-Elbit Advanced Systems India Ltd with Eblit Systems to the Israeli army.

Observers and defence analysts told Middle East Eye at the time it was most likely that the drones, already being used in Gaza and considered the gold standard in the "medium-range long endurance" class of drones, would make their way for use in the territory.

The HRF described the partnership with the Israeli military as "Adani's greed amidst the genocide in Gaza".

"While several countries have withdrawn support to Israel in the face of its inhuman carnage of Palestinians, Adani continues to profit from it, lining its pockets with blood money," the statement added.

The Adani group did not reply to MEE's request for comment.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has grown closer to Israel over the past decade. Delhi is India's biggest purchaser of Israeli weapons, amounting to an estimated $1bn per year. Indian companies are also co-producing several Israeli weapons in factories across India.

On Thursday, Indian novelist and activist Arundhati Roy said that whereas the US continued to export weapons and money to aid Israel’s genocide, India was exporting "what our country has in abundant surplus: the unemployed poor to replace the Palestinian workers who will no longer be given work permits to enter Israel.

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"US money and Indian poverty combine to oil Israel’s genocidal war machine. What a terrible, unthinkable, shame," Roy said at the meeting of Working People Against Apartheid and Genocide in Gaza, at the Press Club in New Delhi, India, on 7 March.

Human rights observers have noted that the Israeli war on Gaza has also been used by right-wing groups to escalate hate speech and crimes against Muslims.

In a report released in late February, the DC-based India Hate Lab found that 20 percent of all hate speech recorded against Indian Muslims between 7 October – 31 December 2023 referenced the Israeli war on Palestinians.

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