Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres advocates a peaceful resolution to tensions on the Indian-Pakistani border, as a growing arms trade between India and Israel raises concerns in the Arab world.
Israel's Shimon Peres wants India and Pakistan to see eye to eye
The foreign minister of one tense conflict met the foreign minister of another, as Israel’s Shimon Peres travelled to India to visit Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and a host of other government officials on Monday.
Israel's foreign minister began a three-day visit in New Delhi with India’s home minister LK Advani and is scheduled to meet Singh on Tuesday and Prime Minister Atel Behari Vajpayee before leaving on Wednesday.
The main purpose of the trip, coming at the heels of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit, was to discuss cooperation in the war against terrorism. India said it also wanted to thank Israel for being the first nation to express solidarity after a suicide attack on its Parliament that killed 14 on December 13.
Israel supports India’s fight against Islamic militancy
Jerusalem has openly supported New Delhi in its conflict with Islamic militancy and, in reference to Pakistan, Peres remarked that "terror cannot exist unless someone is harboring terrorists." India says Pakistan’s reluctance to do more to fight cross-border terrorism is the biggest obstacle to renewed peace talks between the two countries.
"The world is no longer divided into east and west. The new division is between countries that harbor terrorists and countries which fight them," he said after a meeting with Home (Interior) Minister Lal Krishna Advani on Monday
Peres comments on border tensions
But Peres also sought to strike a note of harmony while weighing in on the tensions between the two nuclear powers. He compared the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the border fights between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, saying that the similarities are "in terms of dialogue and the fact that there is only political and no military solution for both."
The two countries, once distant because of India’s open support for the Palestinian cause have grown closer in recent years. Trade between the countries has already reached close to $500 million since April 2001 and is due to match the $1 billion netted annually in years past.
India-Israel arms trade is on the rise
Perhaps more interesting is the quiet arms trade between the two nations. A few months before signing a common agreement to fight terrorism in July 2000, Israel provided India with military technology for use in the dispute with Pakistan in Kashmir.
In July 2001, the two countries signed a weapons contract worth $2 billion. The deal, revealed by Israeli defense officials to the BBC, provided India with aircraft, radar systems and surface-to-surface missiles.
There are already reports of a new, $1 billion order by India for the Phalcon airborne early-warning systems and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, according to the BBC.
"They exchanged views on the security situation, terrorism and defense cooperation," a defence official told Reuters. "Defense cooperation with Israel is an ongoing thing," he said.
Trade cause for concern in Islamic world
Pakistan has said any Indian-Israeli defence collaboration involving such advanced weapons should raise concerns across the Islamic world. Pakistan and Israel have no diplomatic relations.
Iran has already expressed concern at Peres’ visit.
"We cannot accept that Israel, with its plots and in this unusual manner, becomes involved in regional affairs," said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Sadak Harazi on Israeli radio. In reference to the growing military ties between India and Israel, Harazi said an arms race in southern Asia would harm peace and stability.