Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in India on his first and a historic visit. The two nations are signing commercial agreements in the areas of cyber-security, military, agriculture, energy, water and health. The visit also marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between the two countries.
ThePrint asks: How is Pakistan reacting to the Israel-India bromance?
‘A week of weapon deals’ is how one Pakistani newspaper described the Netanyahu visit
Journalist and author of “The Scorpion’s Tail: The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan-And How It Threatens America.”
“A week of weapon deals”, reads a banner headline in The News, a widely circulated English language newspaper in Pakistan, as Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister arrived on a six-day long visit to India.
Some commentators have lamented about the growing Indo-Israeli defence cooperation being a threat to regional peace, though there has not been any official comment from Pakistan on the visit yet. Television news channels have mainly focussed on a protest rally against the Israeli prime minister in Delhi.
Indeed, the growing Indo-Israeli axis has long been a cause of concern for Islamabad, and the reports of burgeoning military cooperation between the two countries has only added to its worries. Many newspapers highlighted the reports of defence deals being signed during the visit. Some analysts have pointed to reports of Israel being a major supplier of weapons to India.
Pakistan’s concerns have only grown following the breakdown of relations with the United States, and the Trump administration’s decision to cut off military assistance to Islamabad.
There was more scathing criticism of cooperation between the two nations during Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in June last year. An editorial in Dawn newspaper drew parallels between Israeli atrocities towards Palestinians and the use of “brute force” by Indian forces in Kashmir.
“Both right-wing governments in Tel Aviv and Delhi seem to be sharing notes on how to keep these restive populations in check,” the editorial said. Another newspaper described the friendship between Netanyahu and Modi as a “meeting of similar minds”.
Pakistan has not recognised Israel, and was one of the movers of the resolution in the United Nations against President Donald Trump’s decision to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem. But there have been some reports in the past of possible secret back-channel diplomatic contact between Islamabad and Tel Aviv.
Pakistan is too preoccupied with domestic politics, and not Netanyahu’s visit to India
Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India is not getting as much attention as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Israel in June last year. This may be partly because Pakistan is in an election year and there is a lot of political turmoil.
The rape and murder of a minor girl near Lahore has sparked massive protests in the country. Opposition parties have joined hands against the sitting government, which is finding it difficult to cope with these pressures.
However, Modi’s visit to Israel last year was not taken lightly, and there was plenty of rumination over it. A senior Pakistani official in the foreign office declared that “Israel and India have long been involved in causing unrest in Pakistan”. The official had also said at that time that Pakistan must “worry about” Modi’s visit. The symbolic value of Modi’s meeting with the young boy Moshe, who was a survivor of the Mumbai attacks in 2008, didn’t go unnoticed.
In the last half of December, Hafiz Saeed commented during a public gathering that he and his party, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, would defend Pakistan against the “dangerous nexus of US, India, and Israel. Pakistan’s authorities feel threatened by this additional pressure from the West”.
Pakistan’s ties with India and the United States are always seen with suspicion once the tag of being supported by the “Jewish lobby” is attached to these countries. To some extent, this is inevitable because Israel is the main ally of the United States in the Middle East.
India has always supported Palestine’s claim for statehood. India also did not support the decision to convert Jerusalem into the capital of Israel in the UN. But this fact will not be registered in the political rhetoric. However, right now, Pakistan’s media has enough domestic troubles to focus on and Netanyahu’s visit to Delhi is not on top of their agenda.
Israel, US & India are forming a triangle that will impact Muslim countries in the region
Resident Editor of the English daily, The News International, in Peshawar
The Pakistani foreign ministry has not yet commented on Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India. But if there is a joint statement by India and Israel and if Pakistan is mentioned in some way, then it will definitely warrant a comment.
Former ISI head Lt Gen Asad Durrani has said that India and Israel have been coming closer for a long time. Durrani said that Pakistan was aware that defence collaboration between India and Israel has increased.
Palestine was very dear to Indian hearts earlier, but that’s no longer the case. The recent Indian vote regarding Jerusalem even annoyed some prominent Indians. There is now a nexus between Modi, Trump and Netanyahu. The way Modi went out of his way to receive Netanyahu at the airport says it all. It shows a keen effort by India to honour Israel and collaborate with it.
Netanyahu’s visit is a manifestation of newly emerging alliances: with US, India, Australia, Japan and Israel in one camp. Then there is a new emerging camp with Pakistan, China, Iran, Russia and Turkey, by default.
Defence technology transfer was already taking place from Israel to India. We have to wait and see if any new deals are struck. India is already the biggest arms purchaser from the US and Israel compliments that.
But there are other views on the deepening ties between the two nations.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman from the Jamiat Ulema Islam, the biggest Islamic party in Pakistan, claims the real cooperation is between RAW and Mossad. He also said ties between the two nations will negatively impact Muslim countries in the neighbourhood and India’s own Muslim population.
“Deepening India-Israel defence ties will push our region into further turmoil as this cannot bring peace. The tone of Indian Army chief changed and became harsh on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to India as he began threatening Pakistan,” said Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader and spokesman Yahya Mujahid.
The executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies, Imtiaz Gul, said that the India-Israel relationship began on an anti-terrorism platform earlier. This is now in a consolidation phase, he said, adding that it fits in with new geopolitical realities.
Israel, US and India are forming a triangle which will have implications for the region. However, there was more alarm in the media when Modi went to Israel. Pakistan should not remain an enemy of Israel forever.