August 2001 News

Israeli teams training forces in Kashmir: Jane''s

16 August 2001
The Times of India
Chidanand Rajghatta

Washington DC: Israeli intelligence agencies have ''several teams'' now in Kashmir training Indian counter-insurgency forces to fight separatist guerrilla groups operating there, according to a report on Jane''s Terrorism and Security Monitor. Israel is understood to be ''heavily involved'' in helping New Delhi combat Islamic militants and this is part of the intensifying of relations between the security apparatus of the two countries, the Monitor said. It gave no specific details of the cooperation or deployment, but said the moves ''fits into Israel''s increasing focus on events in Central Asia, and as far afield as Indonesia''. Recent reports in the Israeli media also speak of increased exchanges between New Delhi and Tel Aviv, including one account of a phone conversation between India''s foreign minister Jaswant Singh and Israel''s Shimon Peres in which they discussed the security issues facing their countries. Although Singh did not express any support to Israel''s action against militant Palestinians and, on the contrary, had plenty of questions, Peres is said to have explained the rationale of the Israeli counterattacks. Israel''s goal is not just to defeat terrorism but to renew dialogue and find a solution, Perez is understood to have told Singh, a sentiment that broadly conforms to India''s own emerging outlook. The Indo-Israeli exchanges are attracting plenty of attention in US strategic circles and many analysts are watching to see what lessons New Delhi will draw from the aggressive Israeli retaliation to terrorist attacks. At a recent think-tank pow-wow, questions about whether India would undertake similar actions to meet the killing spree in Kashmir head- on invited the following sardonic response from a senior administration official: ''Yeah, but how many nuclear weapons do the Palestinians have?'' Still, the strategic community has been rife with talk about the intensifying Indo-Israeli cooperation, including on the nuclear front (which New Delhi has denied). The two sides are beginning to talk regularly on the political plane too. The Israeli media reported last week that Jaswant Singh assured Peres that India will not accept any form of the Zionist-racism equation at the international conference on racism in Durban later this month. Considering how much India had railed against Zionism in the past - including a 1975 supporting vote for a UN resolution equating Zionism with racism - is seems quite a shift in outlook derived quite likely because of the new security considerations. The Islamic world is working overtime to introduce language linking Zionism and racism, but Israel and the US are among those opposing it. Washington last fortnight despatched its Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Democracy Lorne Cramer to New Delhi, to make the case against the Zionism-racism equation and demands for reparations connected to slavery, a mission that met with obvious success. A small pay-off for that support will be that the US and Israel will help India quash any language linking casteism with racism, although there does not seem to be any imminent danger of that at the Durban conference. Congressional staffers say India''s changed position has met with approval of many key lawmakers on the Hill, where the clout of the Jewish lobby is no secret. In fact, India''s whole turn around on relations with Israel began with a Hill connection in 1988 when the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, reversing his mother''s stance of two decades, met with a leading Jewish lobbyist in New York at the behest of a pro-India Congressman Stephen Solarz. This was soon followed by the appointment of a new Israeli Consul in Bombay. Despite its new orientation in the region, the BJP government has also tried to warm relations with key Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Iran, with Jaswant Singh making path-breaking trips to those and many other countries in the Islamic world.


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