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Home > News > Interview

The Rediff Interview/Former foreign secretary Salman Haider

September 09, 2003

Former foreign secretarySalman Haider does notbelievethat Israeli Prime MinisterAriel Sharon's visit to India has been deliberately timed to coincide with the second anniversary of 9/11. In aninterview with Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh, Haider points out that India has little to gain in terms of fighting insurgency from Israel. The former diplomatcomplimented the governmentfor dealing withterrorist violence in a restrained manner despite provocationfrom the hawks that Indiashould launchpre-emptive strikes againstterrorist camps operating in Pakistan.

How would you assess the significance ofAriel Sharon's visit in the present circumstances when so much is happening around the world,particularly in Palestine?

I do not see that the visit has any particular relevance of what is happening within Palestine. Israel would be aware that India is distantfrom it (the situation in Palestine) and there is no conceivable role for it today -- either political or any other(in Palestine). But what is happening elsewhere, particularly in the Middle East, that surely would be of some significance and would come within the ambit of discussions betweenPrime Minister Vajpayee and the Israeli prime minister. The major issuelikely to be discussed wouldrelateto Iraq because it is a huge problem where the outcome is still uncertain.

The Ariel Sharon visit: Full coverage

How significant is this trip from the Indian point of view?

Sharon is a major world figure and he is coming to India despite very heavy preoccupation at home. He is fighting a
constant battle against terrorism and his preoccupation with his neighbourhood. Obviously, he feels that a visit to India is desirable which in turn has broader and long-term significance in Israel's interests.

What is of importance is the fact that questions which would have a long-term bearing on the relationship between the two countries would be discussed and reviewed.

How significant is the relationship between India and Israel?

The relationship betweenthe two is of tremendous significance. It has already been established when (then Israeli foreign minister) Shimon Perescame here some years ago. But at that time the relationship was still of an exploratory nature. We were trying to see how we could relate to each other. Since then a lot has happened. We have a strong Israeli presence in India. Israel has made tremendous gains inagriculture and is prepared to share its technology with us.

Another major aspect is that we have close cooperation with Israel indefence. Israel has emerged as a significant supplier ofdefence equipment. It is a relationship between a manufacturer andpurchaser. We are not reciprocating and giving themsomething indefence.

The BJP had always advocatedstrong relations between India and Israel.

This is the third important element of Sharon's visit to India. Both India and Israel share a concept of perceived threat
from a terrorist attack. Certain security measures might come up for review during the discussions between the two governments. The two governments could share information on the terrorist networks in their respective regions. Some groups like Hamas have a totally different political agenda and hence are not of much significance to us. Experience of Israel may not be directly of any relevance to us and the same could be the case of our experience in Kashmir for Israel.

Don't you feelIndia has handled its counter-insurgency operations in a much restrained manner then Israel?

India has decidedly shown much more restraintin its anti-terrorist operations than Israel though we have such elements in India who also advocatepre-emptive strikes against terrorist camps operating from Pakistan. The only area where we could gain significantly is to share information on the terror groups operating in the world. I agree with you that the methodology adopted by Israel does not offer us much in terms of expertise.

Though Israel has got the capability of striking at will, we have exercised restraint. Better sense has prevailed in our case and we have not violated the accepted frontiers which could lead to a response from the other side and lead to escalation of violence.

If you look at India'sforeign policywould you saywe are inching closer to Israel and moving away from our traditional Arab friends?

Somethingis visible in that direction. There was a comment by a senior government official sometime back where it was mentioned that there was going to be some kind of convergence between America, Israel and ourselves (India). I do not see that happening. I would not saywe are getting away from our traditional Arab friends. Certainly relations change and evolve. Non-alignment is not as active as it was. Third World alliances arenot what theyused to be. With passage of time countries have to find new associates and new friends. There should be no alarm at that. Buttraditional friends have their own place.

The unstated part that is not mentioned that the terrorists who are harassing both India and Israel are both Muslims. Certain groups have come out of the Islamic fold and have been threatening bothcountries and therefore, the convergence. I don't really buy this theory.

Do you see the state of Palestine coming into being by 2005?

No,it is not happening. The Israelis have already saidthe road map is only in the drawer. It is not operational because there has been violence. It is being derailed by the suicide bombers and counter-attacks by the Israeli forces. The suicide bombers and the Israeli tanks have made the road map non-operational.

Should India be happy with Sharon's visit?

I think we should be pleased. I see no reasonwhy we should not developrelations with a very dynamic country. Our relations have developed because they serve our broader interests. His visit to India should be more then welcome. SomeArab nations have also developed links with Israel.Even Pakistan has been talking of developing diplomatic relations with Israel. So the negative factors of having a relationship with Israel a couple of decades back have either disappeared or are now being discarded.

But we must make sure that it should not be seen as if we are distancing ourselves from our traditional Arab friends. We should not accept the communal tingesometerrorist groups might like to exploit.

Mr Sharon will be in India on thesecond anniversary of 9/11. Do you think thishas special significance?

Idoubt that. I would imagineit is sheer coincidence that it happened to be scheduled duringthe September 11 anniversary. I would be surprised if there is any deliberate attempt in sending some kind of message by scheduling
the visit in such a manner.

Design: Uday Kuckian

The Rediff Interviews

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Number of User Comments: 7

Sub: Israeli relations

When Egypt, Jordon, Turkey can have relations with Israel why can't India have !!! Before Israel it was Jordon who was denying rights of Palestine. ...

Posted by Desh Rakshak

Sub: good friends

Israel is a good friend than any other nation. We have to be like israel to deal with our neigbours. shanti shanti will take us ...

Posted by sunny

Sub: Salman Haider----Ties with Israel

Thanks Salman Haider. Your views represent views of very patriot Indian. Arab countries,at the behest of Pakistan ,hardly support us on crucial matters.Israel is time ...

Posted by Saroj kapoor

Sub: Mr.Sharon's visit to Mera Bharat Mahan

As a true Indian we must welcome Mr.Sharon to India. Israel is country of self righteous people. Though a small nation, they have withstood the ...

Posted by alwar

Sub: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon\'s visit

Israel can benefit immensely from this visit of India by Mr. Sharon, if there is a shift in their present policy of confrontation and threat ...

Posted by N J Ramesh



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