Before The PM’s Visit

Much was gained by India and Israel, even before the two forged full diplomatic ties

Written by Vappala Balachandran | Published:July 7, 2017 12:10 am
modi in israel, modi israel visit, narendra modi, benjamin netanyahu, reuven rivlin. israel, india israel relations, india isreal ties, india israel agreements, india israel history, latest news, india news, indian express news Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhyahu’s exhilarated welcome remarks, “We’ve waited for you 70 years”, might sound delightfully dramatic for headlines.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has always been overly effusive over our security ties with Israel, as though such relationship did not exist before their regime in 1996. Although India recognised Israel in 1950, we maintained only consular relations due to geopolitical factors affecting our foreign policy. We developed full diplomatic relations only in 1992 with P.V. Narasimha Rao as our prime minister. But he was lucky to have been able to take the credit due to the drastically altered global political scenario after the 1990-91 Gulf war. In fact, moves towards establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel had started through secret channels even during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s tenure, which was continued by Rajiv Gandhi.

There was high drama during the first Indian high-level official visit on June 14, 2000 by then Home Minister L.K. Advani. The conspicuous feature of his visit was that all his security chiefs like the home secretary, joint secretary (security) and the chiefs of the BSF, CBI and IB were in his entourage. Advani’s visit to Israel was preceded by that of Russian interior minister Vladimir Rushailo. At that time Reuven Paz, noted Israeli counter terrorism expert, wrote a column mocking these visits saying that both these countries, which had earlier criticised Israel for fighting the Palestinian “freedom fighters”, were queuing up to hurriedly learn from the Israeli experience on how to fight such “freedom fighters” in their own backyard.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhyahu’s exhilarated welcome remarks, “We’ve waited for you 70 years”, might sound delightfully dramatic for headlines. That does not mean that a prime ministerial visit is always needed to give substance to the bilateral relationship between India and Israel. Much was achieved in the defence, intelligence and security relationship even when we did not have full diplomatic relations. None of these details can be revealed even now.

In those days, every visiting Israeli security leader used to meet our successive prime ministers to discuss substantive security cooperation. I remember Nahum Admoni (chief of Mossad, 1982-89) telling me about his first visit to New Delhi in the early 1970s — when he was not yet the chief — and his close interaction with the legendary R.N. Kao and their meetings with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Subsequent chiefs like Shabtai Shavit and Ephraim Halevy also had the same access to Indian prime ministers like Rajiv Gandhi and V.P. Singh.

Conversely, our own security chiefs used to meet their prime ministers on our visits to that country. For example, this writer was part of our delegations to meet Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (1986-1992) twice to discuss close intelligence and security cooperation. At that time, Shamir had quoted King Hassan II of Morocco to convey to us that even Yasser Arafat would not take it amiss if India established full diplomatic relations with Israel.

The period just before and after Operation Blue Star saw close cooperation bloom. We sought out their services successfully to plug every possible gap in our VIP security when our Western allies would not sell us modern equipment to counter threats from remote controlled devices. They helped us to discreetly counter aggressive Pakistani moves threatening our land and air security.

However, the only fly in the ointment even in those days was our constant suspicion that Israel had parallel secret contacts with both China and Pakistan. Foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri openly admitted on September 6, 2005 that Pakistan and Israel had “secret contacts with each other for more than 10 years”.

More recently, The Jerusalem Post (December 1, 2010) quoted a Wikileaks document from October 7, 2009, saying that Pakistan’s ISI chief, Ahmad Shuja Pasha, had alerted Israel “Regarding possible terrorist attacks against Jewish and Israeli sites in India”. The document continued: “Pasha asked [the] Ambassador to convey to Washington that he had followed up on threat information that an attack would be launched against India between September-November” the cable read.

The report said: “A few weeks before the cable was written, the Israeli Counter-Terror Bureau had issued a travel advisory warning of possible attacks against Israeli sites in India”. We still do not know the veracity of this cable. It is for the present leadership to investigate.

The writer is a former special secretary, cabinet secretariat

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  1. K
    Kash40
    Jul 8, 2017 at 4:31 am
    Now the congress stooges want to claim credit where nothing exists by claiming that congress government was also Israel friendly. Present write up one such.
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      Anirudh
      Jul 8, 2017 at 1:09 am
      Is it true that India did not support Israel till now because of its vote bank politics and fear of alienating those working in Arab countries? Also from what I have read, the founders of our country Gandhi and Nehru were opposed to division based on religion. Hence they supported Palestine cause. But isn't the separation of India the best thing that has happened to us (except the unneccessary bloodshed and massacre after par ion)? If Pakistan was part of India, our country would have never developed and probably be under civil war and dictatorship. What is morally correct may not always practically be in the best interest of our country and Israel's case is just that. Indian government did good by taking relations with Israel to the next level. But you cannot expect India to mediate a peace initiative in its very first high level delegation. Its status is different from US. India is now moving towards truly neutral stand on this issue and will eventually lead peace talks in future.
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        romi
        Jul 7, 2017 at 9:01 pm
        Why it took 25years for indian PM to visit Israel
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          Bharat Maa
          Jul 7, 2017 at 10:11 pm
          because without visiting Israel also government of India was able to maintain a good relationship with it.
          Reply
          1. K
            Kash40
            Jul 8, 2017 at 4:33 am
            Stop bakwas.
        2. S
          S.Chatterjee
          Jul 7, 2017 at 8:57 pm
          Can we know what was the aim of the visit to Israel? What is it that was aimed and what has it succeeded. India is the largest arms importer in the world and the largest one from Israel too.
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          1. R
            romi
            Jul 7, 2017 at 9:05 pm
            stupid use your brains Israel lobby is very strong in usa. which benefits india india is not like stupid arabs who keep relations on basis of religion.
            Reply
            1. B
              Bharat Maa
              Jul 7, 2017 at 10:13 pm
              how stupid are you to spread the lies. Israel does not have lobby in US at all. Israel on itself has its stand and world respects it. even without visiting and wasting tax money other governments had a good relation with Israel. only just Bla Bla on media does not make modi a hero. reality is hard to accept for you bhatks.
          2. S
            Seshubabu Kilambi
            Jul 7, 2017 at 7:48 pm
            The relations started in the early ninties when US engulfed Induan markets with its capitalusm
            Reply
            1. K
              K.P.RAJENDRANATHAN
              Jul 7, 2017 at 6:07 pm
              Nehru fans are running for clothes, on seeing how foreign policy is propelled for sheer national intrest dis regarding vote banks at home.. The dynamism of the present PM, is giving them sleepless nights. The way international leaders receive and respect him is unparalleled. Their envy, discomfort and helplessness are writ large on these write-up. Nothing left for intelligent readers to fathom in.
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              1. N
                Nissar Ahmed Naik
                Jul 7, 2017 at 1:45 pm
                "Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said in remarks broadcast Monday that Israeli policy in the West Bank represented instances of apartheid worse even that those that once held sway in South Africa. Carter's comments were broadcast on Israel Radio, which played a tape of an interview with the ex-president, but did not specify to whom Carter was speaking. But has made similar remarks in recent interviews, such as one to CBC television. "When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa." Carter said his new book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" was meant to spark U.S. discussion of Israeli policies...... " -Israeli Newspaper 'HAARETZ', Friday, July 07, 2017
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                1. R
                  romi
                  Jul 7, 2017 at 9:06 pm
                  when arabs muslims kill muslims then what do people say ??
                  Reply
                  1. K
                    kempu
                    Jul 7, 2017 at 10:01 pm
                    To Mr N A Naik: Is it surpris-ing that Modiji, who only a few days ago offer-ed his due bow before the Mahatma Gandhi stat-ue Sabar-mati, then as quick-ly forgot what Gandhiji had said about the Palesti-nian nat-ion, flew to Israel, turn-ed coat --to embrace another militarist leader Netanyahu ? Militarist Israel and militarist Hindu rashtra have much in common. Modiji, the Hindu rashtra PM, didn't find it use-ful to his politics to visit Palestine. However, it's deeply moving that our well-known musician and 'rebel against injustice', Mr T M Krishna, representa-tive of the much latger secular, democra-tic India recently visited Palestine hamlets, where he heard a native Palestinian say, "We are not allow-ed access to water from the springs. . If they (Israeli army) cou-ld, they wou-ld even stop air"(THE HINDU/July 2). (2) Now, Hindu rashtra will import latest military weapons from Israel to oust the Adivasis from the mineral-rich central regions of India.
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                  2. K
                    Kamal Pasha
                    Jul 7, 2017 at 11:52 am
                    If anything goes wrong , Modi will blame Narasima Rao.
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                    1. R
                      romi
                      Jul 7, 2017 at 9:07 pm
                      paki - modi doesn't need any congi
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                        Bharat Maa
                        Jul 7, 2017 at 10:14 pm
                        god bless you bhakt. try to argue and discuss if you have head, rather than abusing people.
                      2. K
                        Kash40
                        Jul 8, 2017 at 4:38 am
                        Modi does not Congress alibi. He is not stupid /selfish like Nehru his dynasty who did not want good relations with Israel because Muslim votes.
                        Reply
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