January 31, 2021 3:01:01 am
A day after a low-intensity blast took place outside Israel’s embassy in Delhi, Israel’s ambassador Ron Malka speaks with The Indian Express. Excerpts:
On Friday evening, there was a low-intensity blast outside the Israeli embassy in New Delhi. How did you come to know about it?
Our system is very immediate, so once it [the blast] happened I got the message that goes [out] for diplomats. Once that happens, we are always alert, always prepared. And especially in the last few days and weeks, there are some events and some threats and we raised the level of alert of all diplomats, and security. So the message got spread very fast [after the blast] and we realised that there was something that was happening.
We took all precautions, the guidelines that we have for this kind of situation and we make sure that everyone is safe.
You said there were threats from the last few days. What kind of threats were these – if you can elaborate.
There are some events all over the world – some of them are related to Israel, assassinations and different operations that some terrorists were killed. Israel was blamed for that. It [threats] came from Iran, from Hezbollah in Lebanon, and other places that are going to retaliate…. So it was there last [few] weeks, there were these kinds of threats…in these times, we don’t underestimate our enemies and we take seriously every threat.
So we raised the level of alert (and) we were prepared. We are not surprised. As Israeli diplomats all over the world, we are always prepared. We know that our enemy sees us as targets…so we are prepared. But lately, we even raised the level of alertness.
What are your first thoughts when you heard of this blast?
In these types of events, we have our guidelines, we know what to follow, what to say. So when we do it, we adhere to the guidelines because these are guidelines that came from a lot of experience, unfortunately. We know exactly what to do. We get full control on the situation. Everybody did what they needed to do so. That’s our very first we knew for sure that everyone is safe and protected. And it was a very fast response.
So there was no damage to the embassy building? All diplomats and staff are safe?
Everyone is safe. Fortunately, nobody is hurt and no damage to them.
The embassy is in a very high-security area. Does this tell you about some kind of intelligence lapse from the Indian side or anywhere else?
I don’t think so. At the end of the day, those terrorists, the perpetrators, didn’t reach, didn’t get (to) the target. They tried, but they couldn’t do anything and couldn’t do any harm. In that case, I don’t think that we can say or talk about any lapse. But still the investigation is in its early stages; we need to understand what happened there.
Take the pieces, build the puzzle pieces of information from different places, evidence from the scene. We are gathering all (this) together – (it is a) joint effort of Israeli security authorities and Indian security authorities. And I think that together we are going to find out what happened, who is behind this, and of course to bring him to justice.
A note that has been found is addressed to you, the Israeli ambassador, which says that this is just a trailer. It also names two Iranian figures who were killed. Does this point to the involvement of possible players?
As I said, the investigation is in its early stages, so I cannot refer to them in detail. It might even harm the investigation to get to any specific details, but I can share with you that we are not scared, and no one can deter us. We are going to continue to thrive and to grow, and even to expand the relations between Israel and India because if this was the target…they are not going to achieve it, because you know yesterday when this evil attack was conducted, we just celebrated the 29th anniversary of the establishment of foreign diplomatic relations between Israel and India.
It was a celebration for a thriving and growing, expanding and fruitful, and rewarding relations between Israel and India. It might not be a coincidence, but it might be. So, all options out there (are being) investigated. As I said, it’s still the early stages of investigation but it’s unfolding. And I think that (in the) coming days, we will have a much clearer picture.
Within hours, there was contact between the two sides. Can you please tell us about these conversations?
First, I can say that it’s these special times, the strong and warm friendship between us really reflects itself because, as you mentioned , just after this blast the External Affairs Minister of India, Dr Jaishankar, called our minister of foreign affairs. Mr Gabi Ashkenazi. The Foreign Secretary called our DG, Foreign Affairs. The NSA in India called our NSA. And of course they offered their support, their assistance and the assurances that India is going to take all measures needed to protect Israeli representatives here.
Second, to fulfill a full investigation that will make out what happened here. So in these special times, we feel the warmth, the strong friendship and commitment that is based on mutual trust and mutual respect – we feel safe here. We know that the Indian authorities are doing whatever they can to protect us and to support, and we are really thankful and have a big gratitude for that.
Has Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and PM Narendra Modi been in touch, or have they been updated about this incident?
I don’t know about being in touch. Of course, they are updated and they know exactly what’s happened. This is not something that you just go on with. So of course they are updated.
When you talk about India protecting the Israeli embassy and diplomats, this particular incident reminds us of a blast in February 2012. But there has been no logical conclusion to those investigations and culprits have not been caught. Does that give you confidence, or does that lack of progress bother you?
We are doing whatever we can to understand, investigate and find out what happened. Not all the time we get all details that we want, and all the conclusions that you want. We are going to continue these efforts. I can say that after nine years, the collaboration is much stronger, and higher. The technology (technological) abilities, the information, the intelligence — things have improved dramatically, I would say. So I think that eventually we will find out who did it, and bring it to justice.
The cooperation between the two nations really strengthened since the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. This cooperation that has been ongoing, is that helping right now between the two sides?
As I always say, Israel and India not only share values and interests, but we also share similar hostilities and threats, and counterterrorism is one of them. Of course the terror attack of 2008 in Mumbai put us together. We were both hurt from this attack. So we understand that in order to defeat terror, we need to collaborate to work together, to join forces since terrorism is a global disease.
Once the world realises that and get united, we will defeat terror. But we are not waiting for that, and India is a shining example of how countries should collaborate, work together, share – not only information but practices and experience in order to become stronger to defeat terror. So of course we are sharing, working together, joint efforts, and eventually it’s very fruitful and rewarding.
Is the Mossad working with Indian agencies right now, as we speak, on this investigation?
I can say that, generally speaking, Israel and India collaborate, work together. So, yes, we are working together.
You have been very careful in not pointing fingers at any of the players, but you said that both India and Israel share similar hostilities. Who are you talking about? Do you have countries or groups in mind?
As I said, it’s early stages of the investigation to point to any one. All options are still there. Of course, there are immediate suspicions that we have there, but until we conclude the investigation, we will not know for sure.
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