An Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner plane lands at the Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 22, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
With India and Pakistan facing their worst crisis since the countries last went to war in 1999, a Pakistani daily editorialized on Tuesday that Islamabad should explore ties with Israel to challenge the “worrying” Israel-India “nexus.”
Barring their ideological differences, Israel and Pakistan “are not enemies,” read the editorial in Pakistan’s liberal, English-language Daily Times. “[Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu has opened doors for Islamabad from time to time, but the domestic political environment of Pakistan are some of the key hindrances,” the paper wrote.
The editorial, which noted the close relationship that has developed between Jerusalem and New Delhi, wrote that “perhaps a time may come when Islamabad opens its doors to the Israelis on pragmatic grounds.”
The paper cited former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf as arguing in favor of a policy shift toward Israel, and wrote, “Perhaps the Parliament could initiate a debate on our relationship with Israel and forge a national consensus on how to tackle the challenge of India-Israel nexus.”
Israel and Pakistan do not have diplomatic ties.
Israel is one of India’s chief suppliers of arms, and the weaponry it provided during the Kargil War in 1999 between India and Pakistan is widely believed to have contributed to India’s successes.
Musharraf, living in self-exile in Dubai, was quoted as telling a press conference there two weeks ago that establishing relations with Israel “will help Pakistan counter India.”
Musharraf led Pakistan from 1999 to 2008. In 2005 – after Israel and Pakistan flirted with diplomatic ties – then-foreign minister Silvan Shalom met his Pakistani counterpart in Istanbul. Shortly after that, Musharraf shook then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s hand while they were at the UN General Assembly, but efforts at establishing diplomatic ties between the two countries soon petered out.
The Daily Times editorial follows a string of steps that could be interpreted as some movement toward the development of better ties between Pakistan and Israel, developments being carefully watched by India.
These include reports that a senior Israeli official – some speculated that it may have been Netanyahu himself – flew to Islamabad from Tel Aviv in October; permission Pakistan granted in January for a Pakistani Jew to visit Israel; and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi statement last month that his country is “interested in advancing its relations with Israel, but this is a question of the diplomatic situation in the region.”
“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,” Qureshi told Maariv at the Munich Security Conference. “We have many friends in the region and we would like you to join them.”
One senior diplomatic source said that New Delhi has not asked anything in particular from Israel since tensions with Pakistan escalated last week when India carried out a pre-emptive attack on a jihadist training camp in Pakistan, and Pakistan downed an Indian fighter and captured a pilot, later returned to India.
Following the suicide bombing on February 14 that killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in the Kashmir region that sparked the crisis, New Delhi did make clear that it would like to see Jerusalem take a proactive role in helping New Delhi get the world to sanction Pakistan-based terror organizations.
The Indian media reported that Israeli-made SPICE 2000 smart bombs were used in India’s attack on the jihadist camp.