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Advani & co. ruffle arab feathers
By Zafarul-Islam Khan

Arabs from Oman to Morocco felt hurt and cheated at the overt Indian gestures to Israel recently. Apart from comments by government officials and media from the Gulf to the Atlantic, the League of Arab States (LAS) saw it fit to issue an official statement condemning Indian nuclear collaboration with Israel. The statement asked the 22 LAS member-states ‘to undertake whatever it deemed fit in the light of the dangers posed by the development of the growing Indo-Israeli relations, especially in the nuclear and technical fields.’

The Arab World, the largest market for Indian goods and labour, looks at the Israeli nuclear programme as a direct threat to its security since the Israeli nuclear bombs are manufactured solely in order to terrorize and hit Arabs into submission. Any cooperation in this field is sure to provoke deepest Arab fears. Moreover, LK Advani’s call for joint Indo-Israeli action against the so-called ‘Islamic terrorism’ also aroused Arabs no end. This is because the Israeli understanding of this term, first coined by Tel Aviv, is different from others. To them anyone opposing the zionist occupation of others’ lands is a ‘terrorist.’ The only country in the world in direct occupation of other peoples’ lands, Israel used the sheer weight of occupation to twist its victims’ arms to recognize its conquests. 

Indian spokesmen were quick to deny any ‘nuclear’ cooperation with Israel, and any talk of ‘Islamic’ terrorism was also denied amid explanations that Indo-Israeli relations are bilateral which have nothing to do with others. 

The Times of India on 17 July quoted an Indian official as saying ‘there is nothing to be apologetic about.. There are no more explanations required.’

In the meantime, Jaswant Singh who followed Advani to Tel Aviv, shot off his mouth… Speaking of a ‘tectonic shift of consciousness’ (whatever that may mean) Mr Singh undignifiedly told his Israeli friends that ‘India’s Israel policy became a captive to domestic policy that came to be unwittingly an unstated veto to India’s larger West Asia policy’—easily the gaffe of the year since no self-respecting minister could or should utter such words on foreign soil.

With this background Mr KV Rajan, secretary in the MEA met 18 Arab ambassadors in New Delhi on 21 July to state that there was ‘no substance in the media reports’ about India’s cooperation with Israel in the nuclear field. He also clarified that India did not talk about ‘Islamic terrorism’ as reported in the media. Instead it talked about ‘terrorism’ which, according to him, has also been discussed with several Arab countries. According to our sources, Arab envoys were not completely satisfied with the outcome. 

This sorry episode should be a lesson about how our officials should and should not act and react especially on foreign soil.

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