Friday, March 03, 2006

The Pakistan-Israel relationship unlikely to benefit Pakistan

Graham Usher, in Middle East Report, 2 March 2006, wrote about 'Musharraf's Opening to Israel'.

The following is extracted from the article:

In September 2005 Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri met his then Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom.

Unofficial Israeli-Pakistani contacts have been in existence for as long as the two states.

Both Israel and Pakistan were on the US side in the post-1948 world order.

Both acted against any Arab or Asian nationalism that might threaten US interests.

Usher writes:

Common ground was also found following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979...

Israel was not only active in currying diplomatic support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan, but also supplied arms to the Islamist fighters, through the agency of the CIA and with the blessing of Pakistan's dictator, Zia ul Haq...

The most important contacts were between the Mossad and Pakistan's shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, and the traffic was two-way.

Pakistan would pass on intelligence about the Gulf states and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and Libya, whose programs Pakistani scientists had helped to build. Israel would provide everything from training for Pakistani leaders' security guards to intelligence on India, with whom it has enjoyed full diplomatic relations since 1992...

Musharraf, prior to authorizing his foreign minister's handshake with Shalom, cleared the meeting with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and the PA. He followed it with a “chance” encounter with Ariel Sharon on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, as well as an address to the American Jewish Congress that was received with a standing ovation.

One of Musharraf's aims is to counter Israel's burgeoning military relationship with India.

Pakistan fears that India has become the US strategic “choice in the region,” to be nurtured as a counterweight to China.

Usher writes:

The road to redemption leads through warmer relations with Israel, his advisers say, informed by their absolute conviction that “the Jewish lobby” controls not only Congress and the White House, but also the military-industrial complex and the media...

Perhaps Islamabad's greatest fear is that India will be promoted in Western strategic thinking to a “front-rank” nuclear power, leaving Pakistan mired in the distrusted second rank. The solution, says Pakistani analyst Mahmood ul Khan, is reaching out to Israel, not as an adversary (one of the rationales for developing the bomb Pakistan stated to its Arab backers), but as an ally.


Are any of these projected dividends of the rapprochement with Israel likely? The most probable answer is no.

Pakistan's view of the Indo-Israeli relationship overlooks the fact that it is a commercial as much as a military pact. Today, Indo-Israeli trade stands at a whopping $4.5 billion, with India purchasing $2 billion in arms from Israel's high-tech industries.

In return, Israel supplies upgraded weapons systems of Russian vintage, precisely what the Indian army requires, given its reliance on Soviet-era aircraft, artillery and tanks.

The idea that one foreign ministerial meeting will neutralize or counterbalance this robust partnership requires much imagination.

It is true that Pakistan has an image problem in the West, but it will take more than the clout of the pro-Israel lobby to redress it.

Musharraf's UN sojourn in September was a public relations disaster, despite the rapprochement with Israel, which received little press coverage in the US.

On the other hand, Musharraf's comments to the Washington Post that Pakistani women's claims of rape were a “money-making concern…to go abroad and get a visa for Canada” caused outrage among both Pakistani and US women's groups.

Because Musharraf denied making the remarks, which were captured on tape by the Post, his sentiments on this question turned into a week-long story.

Finally, an alliance between Pakistan and Israel in the teeth of a new Indo-US nuclear hegemony is also likely to be illusory.

More likely is that Israel will maintain its preferred “vague and veiled” nuclear policy, with Washington sustaining the fiction.

Pakistan will remain isolated, unable to shake off its dodgy status. If history is anything to go by, isolation could mean a new era of proliferation as Pakistan strives to keep up with the perceived Indian menace, auguring nuclear adventurism abroad ( a la A. Q. Khan) and renewed tensions with Washington.

The Pakistani people, still reeling from an earthquake that took 80,000 lives and destroyed thousands of schools, hospitals and homes, will bear the cost of the general's renewed adventurism or an intensified arms race with India...


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