India, warily watching baby steps Pakistan and Israel are making toward one another, would like to see Jerusalem take a proactive role in helping New Delhi sanction Pakistan-based terror organizations, diplomatic officials told The Jerusalem Post.
According to the officials, India would also like some Israeli political support in Washington in efforts to convince the administration of US President Donald Trump that its plans to withdraw half of the current US troops from Afghanistan is a mistake.
A day after Trump tweeted in December his intent to remove 2,000 US soldiers from Syria – a decision Jerusalem is warning against because of its ramifications for Israel and the region – he also declared intent to remove 7,000 troops from Afghanistan.
This is a step India fears will embolden Pakistan-based terrorists.
India is reeling over a suicide attack last week in Pulwama carried out by the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist group, whose leadership is based in Pakistan. Forty Indian soldiers were killed in the attack, and India would like Israeli help in international forums to get the organization’s leader, Masood Azhar, on the UN Security Council’s terrorist blacklist. So far efforts to do so have been vetoed by China.
Israel is also a member of the Financial Action Task Force, which combats the financing of terrorism, and India wants Israel to actively join its efforts to push the international community toward acting more aggressively against Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organization, which killed 164 people in Mumbai in multiple attacks in 2008, including at the local Chabad House.
New Delhi’s interest in seeing Israel proactive on this issue comes as it watches Pakistan and Israel take small steps toward one another.
INDIA, according to diplomatic officials, has paid close attention in recent months to three developments.
The first took place in October when, on the day before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman, Haaretz English edition editor Avi Scharf tweeted about an Israeli business jet that flew from Tel Aviv to Islamabad, with a layover of just a few minutes in Amman. The plane was on the ground in Pakistan for some 10 hours.
While it is not clear who was on board, and Pakistan – a Muslim nation that has no formal ties with Israel – vehemently denied that any Israeli aircraft landed, the Indians believe the plane did indeed land in the country.
The second incident New Delhi is watching closely is Islamabad’s permission in January to allow a Pakistani Jew, Fishel Khalid, travel to Israel.
The story was widely covered in the Pakistani press, with The News International website writing about the case on January 24 under the headline, “Pak Jew allowed to travel to Israel for first time.”
The case is significant because Pakistani passports say they are not valid for visiting Israel.
“Call it a diplomatic thaw or a baby step towards it, Pakistan has not only permitted its Jewish citizen to travel to Israel but also encouraged him to publicize this permission, less than three months after the reported arrival of the Israeli plane in Islamabad,” The News International wrote.
According to the report, Khalid “will be the first Pakistani” permitted to travel to Israel. Khalid, 31, is the son of a Muslim father and Jewish mother, and is officially registered in Pakistan as Jew, while his brothers opted for Islam. There are reportedly between 700-800 Jews in Pakistan, most of whom hide their identity.
Khalid applied for permission to visit Israel three days after the Israeli business plane landed in Islamabad. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry granted his request, and as a result he tweeted a message to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan: “Dear @ImranKhanPTI on Jan 2 Ministry of Foreign Affairs called to informing that I can visit Jerusalem, Israel on Pakistani passport. I’m applying visa from Israeli embassy.”
And the third incident that attracted India’s attention is a statement Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made over the weekend to Maariv at the Munich Security Conference.
“Pakistan is interested in advancing its relations with Israel, but this is a question of the diplomatic situation in the region,” Qureshi said.
“Progress in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be very helpful, and if the American plan succeeds in doing this, that will be good. We wish Israel all the best. We have many friends in the region and we would like you to join them,” he was quoted as saying.
These moves also come against the background of massive Saudi economic support for Pakistan, reflected this week in Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to the country, during which he signed investment deals for the badly cash-strapped country worth $20 billion. There is a school of thought that the Saudis, with whom Israel reportedly has discreet security and intelligence contacts, is interested in some movement between Pakistan and Israel in order to give its own moves toward Israel greater legitimacy in the Muslim world.
Diplomatic officials said that India, with which Israel has developed very strong diplomatic, security and economic ties, has no objection to an Israeli-Pakistani rapprochement, but would not like to see security cooperation between the two countries.
Israel and Pakistan have flirted with diplomatic ties for years, with the peak being in September 2005 when then-foreign minister Silvan Shalom met his Pakistani counterpart in Istanbul. Shortly after that, Pakistan’s prime minister at the time, Pervez Musharraf, shook prime minister Ariel Sharon’s hand while they were at the UN General Assembly.
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