New Delhi: On friendship with Israel under the BJP government in India, one remembers Sushma Swaraj describing Israel as a ‘reliable partner’ wayback in 2008.
As for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well, he had previously visited Israel as the Chief Minister of Gurajat and took steps to ensure cordial political and trade links between his state and Israel.
In November 2000, Jewish outreach movement ‘Chabad’ unveiled a plaque at its synagogue in Israel’s southern coastal city of Eilat in the memory of six Jews killed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
Certain developments related to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir were linked to Israelis. And somehow the 1992 attack on Israeli tourists had forced the Americans to pull up their sleeves.
In 1991, the Government of India gave a dossier to the US. This was done by the Chandrashekhar government though it was in office only for a few weeks. The dossier was on the ‘Pakistani sponsorship’ of terrorism in India and mainly J&K.
The dossier suggested that the George Bush administration should declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of international terrorism as provided under the US laws. The plea was rejected.
It was argued that much to the glee of the Pakistan authorities that the ‘evidence’ for the dossier was based on ‘interrogation’ of accused in police or military custody. The targets could have been tortured.
However, the terror attack on Israelis in 1992 in Srinagar had some impact in US politics. Into the election campaign for another term, George Bush came under pressure from the Jewish lobby to act.
Bush then ordered ‘re-examination’ of the Indian dossier by the State department. Of course, before the re-visit exercise was carried out, Bush had lost his election. After assuming office in January 1993, Bill Clinton subsequently placed Pakistan and Sudan on the ‘watch list’ of suspected state-sponsors of international terrorism. This was considered a vital development.
Of course, state-sponsorship to terror became a major issue for India. Because of this ‘Pakistan factor’, the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir had always posed complex challenges.
Security agencies had reports that between 1988 and 1994, over 50,000 Kashmiri youth are estimated to have been trained in Pakistan. Terror related incidents went up from 400 in 1988-89 to 5000 in 1994, and deaths from 30 to 2600.
Mujahideen, freed from the Afghan conflict, would come to J&K and the number clocked 1600 in 1994. Now let us come to an important facet. India, Israel and the US have been concerned about global terrorism.
From New Delhi’s perspective, five Pakistani terrorist groups including the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammed, all of whom were for Jihad against India. They joined Osama bin Laden front “International Islamic Front for Jihad in 1998.
The US and Israel were two other chief targets. So cooperation had to be established.India has, however, maintained that it would not erode its ideological support for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, or New Delhi’s determination to expand cooperation with friendly countries like Iran and UAE in the gulf..
Essentially the problem to deal with state-sponsorship to terrorism from Pakistan was not in its diagnosis. But it lay with the manner things ought to be handled. India knew many years back that Pakistan looks upon terrorism as a political and diplomatic tool to frustrate India’s aspirations of emerging as a major regional power. But there were no substantial actions notwithstanding strong recommendations on those lines from the security agencies. It came to light that once 26/11 left Indian security apparatus devastated, there was an ample scope for a surgical strike. But the political leadership under Manmohan Singh developed cold feet.
The United States and Israel follow a policy of an overtly declared retaliatory step or strategy. Of course, it can be argued that it is easier for them unlike India as none of the state-sponsors of terror Israel and the US deal with is a nuclear power.
Of course, like India, Pakistan became a nuclear power only in 1998, and we did not act prior to that also. There is another element, India has a substantial number of Muslims and the political system often compelled our stakeholders to be more lenient. Though time and again, the Muslim population and Muslim soldiers and defence officials have proved their role would not be left wanting whenever the motherland demanded their services.
The problem has been political or rather the politics of minority appeasement.
In fact, during 1995-96, a security paper was circulated among various security agencies. It had said quite categorically that political and diplomatic options against such nations (read Pakistan in our case) can work only if they are backed by the threat of para-military and military retaliatory options. New Delhi under ‘secular regimes’ has depended entirely on diplomatic and political tools serving no real purpose.
The paper also had underlined that the evolution of an effective counter-terrorism strategy has to be in the direction of the recognition of the need for a policy of ‘active defence’ which would deny success to the enemy state-sponsor. This mode of suggestion was actually based on the Israeli-model.
Since its inception in 1980, the BJP has had a policy inclined toward Israel.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has given a boost to the Israel-India ties. While Modi has a special bond with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, his foreign ministerSushma Swaraj (now deceased) had even called herself an admirer of Israel. Way back in 2008, she had called Israel “a reliable partner” for India.
Late Swaraj also served as chairwoman of the Indo-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group from 2006 to 2009.