By Robinder Sachdev
The 5th annual US-India 2+2 Dialogue will be held this weekend. Secretary Anthony Blinken and Secretary Llyod Austin will be in New Delhi to hold discussions with Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, on various bilateral US-India relations, including to prepare for the upcoming QUAD summit in January 2024.
Apart from US-India relations, the “New World Matrix – Under Construction”, QUAD, Russia-Ukraine war, do you have any doubt that these gentlemen will not spend quality time discussing the situation in the Middle East, in a scheduled session, and during intermission, luncheon, or coffee-break?
The Israel-Hamas conflict is top-of-mind and concern for the world today. The ongoing military operation of Israel to eliminate Hamas from Gaza is in full swing. How and whenever this operation ends, the question is about the future of Gaza. And Israel. And Palestine. And Middle East. And also increasingly about the West versus the Global South.
Conflicts in the Middle East are much entangled in a convoluted past of 5,000 or so years. However, looking at modern world history it may not be incorrect to say that the present Israel-Gaza conflict is bigly rooted in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and the creation of Israel, along with a non-solution to the issue of Palestine, in 1948.
Since 1948 the stated positions of almost all countries, at all world fora, and in the UN, have repeatedly stood for a 2-State-Solution to the issue of Palestine. But all that the world has seen so far in the past 75 years are twists and turns, mostly a service, to solving the question of Palestine.
The Present – Waiting for Godot
Since 1948 there have been innumerable talks and un-implemented accords among world leaders and stakeholders to birth a genuine 2-State-Solution to the issue of Palestine. Looking at the track record of the global community over the past 75 years to solve the question of Palestine, I have no hesitation in saying that all this talk of a “2-State-Solution” is a dead-end and that nations and vested interests, will keep paying obeisance to this noble principle without any sincere intent or hope to solve the issue.
Analyzing the wordsmithery and diplomatic handwringing since 1948 on the issue of Palestine reminds me of the play, “Waiting for Godot” – the truth is that waiting to see the daylight of a 2-Sate-Solution is like waiting for Godot.
Pragmatic Future – The 3-Region formula
In the background of the Israel-Hamas conflict of 2023 and keeping in mind that this vague pursuit of a 2-State-Solution has failed the people of Israel, the people of Palestine, and world peace, our think tank, The Imagindia Institute, submits that the roadmap to a peaceful future in the Middle East goes through a “3-Region-Formula” as a pragmatic first or interim step.
Simply said, Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank are three different “geographical regions”. There is no geographic connect between Gaza and the West Bank. Each region has its own complexities and nuances. Therefore, a 3-Region-Formula may be the most sensible way ahead. Thereafter, once the 3-Region-Formula stabilizes in 10-odd years, there will be scope to graduate to a 2-State-Solution.
The Opportunity: Joint US-India “Out-of-the-Box” leadership to solve the Middle East tangle.
Imagindia believes that the aforementioned 3-Region-Formula may be the most pragmatic method to prevent the Middle East from tipping over into a cauldron of hatred, fire, and fury.
Perchance, the US-India 2+2 is scheduled in New Delhi this weekend jointly between the foreign and defense ministers of the United States and India. This is an opportunity for the topmost aides of President Biden and Prime Minister Modi to be bold and take a shot at slicing the proverbial Gordian Knot by exploring an out-of-the-box approach to the Middle East crisis, rather than paying homilies to a 2-State-Solution which both sides very well know will lead nowhere.
Therefore, if America presents a genuine will towards a 3-Region-Formula in the Middle East, I am sure it will find in India a partner pillar that will be willing and able to play a meaningful role in resolving the conflict, rather than if the US continues to flog a 2-State-Solution which is jaded by now and has no real basis in the present.
The India of today is a global heavyweight with a voice that speaks of common sense, morality, and a philosophy that the world is one family, as exemplified by Prime Minister Modi’s signature call at Samarkand, 2021, that “This is not the era of wars. This is the era to live and let live”.
India can be an honest interlocutor, with well-meaning intent, that has exceptional relations with Israel and a rich legacy of standing with the cause of Palestine, and the Global South.
Who needs to do what:
The ball can be set rolling by Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin when they walk into their meeting with Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar, and Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh. They can present a letter by President Biden addressed to Prime Minister Modi urging India’s support and contribution to a 3-Region-Formula towards peace in the Middle East.
(Robinder Sachdev is the President of The Imagindia Institute, based in New Delhi.)
Read more columns by Robinder Sachdev:
Can Modi revive a global era of Camelot? (June 21, 2023)
Can India become America’s ordnance factory? (June 16, 2023)
Come, let us re-discover Zero (3) – Zero, India’s biggest export product ever (December 15, 2016)
The opto-politics for India in a post-truth, Trumpian world (November 21, 2016)
Modi must now zero-in on how to build a credible India (May 26, 2014)
Modi needs to be the Deng Xiaoping and Lee Kuan Yew of India (May 12, 2014)
Why Modi may need a Robert Kennedy (May 1, 2014)
PR is not PR – and Modi must not fall into the 100-day trap (April 21, 2014)
Welcome to India’s new foreign economic policy (April 11, 2014)
When and where will Modi meet Obama? (April 8, 2014)