Two topics are dominating social media in India right now: the Cricket World Cup and Israel’s war with Hamas, with the latter clearly prevailing. In recent weeks, an analysis of social network X has shown that the vast majority of posts with hashtags in support of Israel come from this very country.
«In general, it’s surprising what kind of scope this topic has gotten in India. Usually they are busy with their internal problems», says Nicolas Blarel, professor of International Relations at Leiden University. — «As a rule, the situation in the Middle East is of close interest to nationalist Hindu groups, which follow Israel’s anti-terrorist methods».
Narendra Modi limited himself to an online post expressing support for Israel, but the Indian People’s Party, which he leads, immediately drew a parallel between the Hamas attack and the 2008 Islamist terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed 160 people.
Muslims in India are 15 percent, though that’s 80 million people. But for 80 percent of Hindus, they are an internal enemy who are neither spared nor pitied.
Now India is Israel’s biggest friend after the United States. In the middle of the last decade, the leaders exchanged visits that were «historic» in their terms and since then trade turnover has doubled by 2022. The main areas are agriculture, computer science, health care, but most importantly, defense. Israel has become India’s main arms supplier. The $8.3 billion package includes Israel’s famous Barak 8 SAM system, among others.
Qatar’s Al Jazeera channel assumed in its review that the surge of pro-Israeli activity on social media was all fakes, trolls and other artificial intelligence. But the ruling party’s video about the Islamist terrorist attacks in India with the slogan «Never forgive, never forget» was watched by millions.
Many countries expressed their support for Palestine, but not for Hamas. For example, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Oman.
And Iran, for example, has always supported the movement, but until some time did not directly declare possible military support, outlining only «red lines» to Israel. President Ebrahim Raisi even rejoiced that soon all Muslims will be able to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Turkey has held roughly the same positions, but in Erdogan’s recent speech at a Palestine solidarity rally, he made his position clear by promising to recognize Israel as a «war criminal».
Suddenly, tiny Qatar has become almost the chief mediator between Hamas and the West. Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to Doha, Macron sent his special envoy, and Germany asked for help in freeing German hostages.
In recent days, Qatar has been compared to «Switzerland of World War II». Local diplomats can pick up the phone and call Hamas leaders, which no Western state can afford. It hosts the representative office of the organization’s political wing, and its leaders, both Khaled Mashal and Ismail Haniyeh, have been living in Doha since 2012. They feel great, fly on private jets, and their children are engaged in real estate. By the way, all this is in coordination with the Americans, for whom this option is practically the only channel of communication.
The main financier of Gaza is considered to be Iran. But not everyone thinks so. With the consent of Israel, the UN and the US, suitcases of cash have been delivered to the enclave for years. The French newspaper Liberation writes that back in 2018, a Qatari diplomat arrived at Israel’s Erez crossing, in the northern part of the Strip, with three suitcases containing $15 million — that was the first payment. Now this aid is estimated at about $30 million dollars a month. That is, a million a day.
«All this is known and proven», says Didier Billion, deputy director of the French Institute for International and Strategic Relations. — «The money goes to the salaries of Gaza officials, but it is well known that they are all members of Hamas. So Doha, it turns out, is directly supporting this organization».
And just a few kilometers away from the Hamas bureau in Qatar is the U.S. airbase Al Udeid, the largest in the Middle East, where 10,000 people serve. For Qatar, cooperation with the US is an absolute priority. Washington even supported it during the «four-year blockade» from 2017 to 2021, which was imposed by neighbors led by Saudi Arabia.
However, neighboring Hamas is not very impressive to the Americans right now. Blinken hinted during his visit that it can’t go on like this for much longer, to which the country’s prime minister responded, «The Hamas bureau is a communication channel necessary to maintain peace in the region».
The bureau is unlikely to be closed there; that would indeed be a mistake. Both the US and its allies would lose not so much control, but at least the possibility of monitoring what is going on in the Palestinian organization. And Qatar would be left with the advantage of maintaining friendly relations with both the West and the Palestinians.
Qatari diplomats are now considered specialists in hostage rescue. Not so long ago they rescued American prisoners from Iran in exchange for 6 billion dollars belonging to Iran and frozen in South Korea. And the money went to Tehran through Qatari banks. So far, 4 hostages have been released in Gaza with their help — two Americans and two Israelis.
This position of the only negotiator allows Qatar not only to strengthen its geopolitical position. When the war ends and Gaza has to be rebuilt, it is clear who will be the investor.