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What could be Pakistan’s response to the deepening India-Israel friendship?

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Hemant Bijapurkar
Contributor at OpIndia.com, Wish to write a great trilogy someday!

On 4th of July, India and Israel embarked upon a new historic chapter, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first ever Indian Prime Minister to touch down on the shores of Israel.

The Israeli establishment left no stone unturned in providing the best possible welcome for PM Modi. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his whole cabinet were at the airport to welcome him and there were a lot of inter-personal touches given to the communication and events.

India as a nation has a whole lot to gain from Israel. Today Israeli startups are leading the tech world, Israel leads the world when it comes to agri-tech and has been also dubbed as an agricultural superpower in recent years. Its military is considered one of the most highly trained in the world and Israel has also been called a key to solve global terrorism.

So there is lot to learn from Israel as we try to find solutions to India’s job, agriculture and national security woes.

Also in an interview to Arnab Goswami, PM Netanyahu stated that the way to eliminate terrorism was by sharing intelligence and by cooperating in classified ways. He, in the same interview, stated that India and Israel are natural allies and a great partnership would come out of the visit.

All this would be music to the ears of million of Indians, but obviously it is not going to amuse many in Pakistan.

Pakistan as a nation has always thrived on internal conflict, socio-political instability, and compromised national security of India. With Israel possibly helping India in rectifying it, the response of Pakistan to this new relationship would be one to watch out for.

As it turns out, Pakistan hasn’t been sitting idle and as a response to this shift in India’s policy towards Israel, has decided to rake up the one and the only issue it can think of that it feels can be the proper response to the development – Kashmir.

Even as PM Modi hasn’t yet left Israeli soil, Pakistan’s leading daily The Dawn has come out with an op-ed regarding the the Indo-Israeli embrace. The article cited Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni’s decision to ask for support for the ‘oppressed Muslims in Kashmir’ on Monday, which the article speculated was a reaction to the impending visit by PM Modi to Israel.

The article then tried to draw similarity between oppressed Palestinians and the so-called oppressed Kashmiris, who have been denied the ‘freedom and dignity they desire’.

The report tried to see a silver line in by arguing that Indo-Israeli partnership has provided an opportunity for Pakistan to ‘highlight the Kashmir issue with Iran and others’. Pakistan appears to be in a hurry and reports suggest that it is already planning to escalate the Kashmir issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Now there aren’t as such many options in front of Pakistan. Knocking on the doors of ICJ in itself might not do any good as it has been time and again reiterated by India that both the countries are bound by the Shimla and Lahore agreement to find a “Bilateral” solution to the unresolved issue. Also external-affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has just a month back stated that, no third party can be involved in the Kashmir talks.

What Pakistan hopes to achieve is an anti-India nexus of Islamic countries thanks to the friendship with “Jewish” Israel. And there are some reasons why Pakistan’s hopes might appear real and reasonable.

For example, normally Saudi Arabia and Iran’s diplomatic relations are steeped in conflict and disagreement, which is fundamentally based on the Shia-Sunni divide, but when it comes to Israel, both the countries have similar views.

Saudi Arabia hates Israel. So much so that both the countries have no diplomatic relations and even don’t have any direct air-routes. When US President Donald Trump took a direct flight – in the dedicated airline for the US president – from Saudi Arabia to Israel, it was touted as a great symbolic step. Going a step ahead of Saudi, Iran’s Ayatollah has laid out legal and religious justifications to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel.

It might be a dream scenario for Pakistan if such unbridled hatred could be directed towards India, because India and Israel are now friends. But would it happen?

Even though Modi’s critics like to paint him anti-Muslim and some in Indian media tried to link his Israel visit as extension of his alleged anti-Muslim politics, he has always received very warm receptions from Saudi Arabia and Iran during his official visits there, with no Israel type hostility ever being on display. This will end just because Modi got a rousing welcome in Israel may remain a wishful thinking of Pakistan.

The next stop for Pakistan might be to turn the UN against India. When it comes to Kashmir the UN has largely favoured India, as evident by Nawaz Sharif’s disappointment with the UN’s non interfering stance when it comes to Kashmir.

But when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, UN continues to pass resolutions like Israel’s settlements in the so called Palestinian territory having no legal validity. The resolutions even called the settlements “a flagrant violation under international law”. This is at a time when PM Netanyahu had called for “direct bilateral negotiations with Palestine”.

This means that Pakistan will need to do a lot to equate India with Israel on the Kashmir issue, which it has been trying, though without success.

One of the major reasons why Pakistan has failed is because that country is increasingly being seen as a terrorist-friendly nation. There has been a marked departure in US policy regarding Pakistan, and it is no longer a ‘natural ally’ in the ‘war on terror’.

This means, that Pakistan needs new ‘agents’ to push its narrative where terrorism in Kashmir is whitewashed and stone-pelting is romanticized as Intifada (Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation), for which it would need the help of its accessories in the media and in the establishment.

Ironically, some in the Indian media and ‘intelligentsia’ are doing this job better than Pakistan in whitewashing Islamic terrorism in Kashmir, through acts such as equating Indian Army chief with General Dyer. No wonder, Pakistan had decided to reach out such sections in India as part of its new Kashmir policy.

Overall, all these options in front of Pakistan might not even take off if India plays its cards right and maintains the right balance between the Islamic countries and Israel, which it appears to be doing by being in favour of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Even if India forsakes this balance, it might not have anything to worry about as Pakistan itself has virtually no credibility in the eyes of Middle Eastern countries. This was evident after Saudi Arabia planned to scrutinise Pakistanis before letting them in or Pakistan being utterly humiliated during Donald Trump’s recent Islamic summit.

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Hemant Bijapurkar
Contributor at OpIndia.com, Wish to write a great trilogy someday!

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