JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH, Aug. 19: Under no circumstances will Israel support Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, top Israeli authorities have said.
This is significant given that the country has been relatively silent over Kashmir, which is described as the core issue between India and Pakistan, despite standing shoulder to shoulder with India in the fight against terrorism.
For India, the main issue with Pakistan is cross-border terrorism which continues to fan unrest in Jammu and Kashmir.
For a while, after India established full diplomatic relations with Israel in the early 90s, Israel had endorsed India's position that Kashmir was an integral part of the country.
However, as India's West Asia expert Rajendra Abhyankar described it, a certain entente cordiale emerged between Israel and Pakistan after 2003 with Israel starting to look at Pakistan as an important country of the Muslim world.
The Delhi Declaration issued after the visit to India by then PM Ariel Sharon in 2003, the first bilateral visit by the PM of either country, did not mention Israel's position on Kashmir. Similarly, the recent visit by Indian PM Narendra Modi, first by an Indian PM to Israel, did not see any direct or even indirect reference to the issue in public despite the tumult prevailing in the state for which India blames Pakistan.
According to Israeli officials though, there is no question of Israel in any way supporting Pakistan, whatever might be the situation in Kashmir. This was conveyed, in response to a TOI query, to a delegation of Indian journalists and politicians who were brought to Israel by the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
The query also touched upon why, despite claiming to fully back India's stand on terrorism, the joint statement issued after Modi-Netanyahu meeting last month, neither made any specific mention of cross-border terrorism nor called upon Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice. In contrast, the Modi-Trump joint statement this year did not just name Pakistan, asking it to expeditiously bring the perpetrators of Mumbai and Pathankot attacks to justice, but also sought action against Pakistan based terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
According to Israel though, the joint statement did not have to be exhaustive and that if something wasn't mentioned, it did not mean that it wasn't on the table. Israel also doesn't see the Kashmir issue as any form of religious conflict.
It's perhaps a sign of the maturity of its relationship with India that Israel has the confidence to not pursue exclusive ties with New Delhi. As Israeli officials said, there was no reason for Israel to take a position on the Sino-Indian military standoff even though Israel was following the situation closely. Israel has great relations with China but, as an official put it, just as India's relations with Iran are not directed at Israel, Israel's relations with any country too were were not directed to India.
However, while Israelis recalled Modi's visit as one of the most successful ever by a foreign leader, there was considerable disappointment at Ramallah, barely 10 miles north of Jerusalem, over Modi's decision to ignore Palestine during the visit. Unlike even his own foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, Modi chose not to visit Ramallah with his government looking to de-hyphenate ties with Israel and Palestine.
"There's significant concern here that India is moving away from the policies it has followed since 1947," said Khalil Shikaki, the director of Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.
"The current PM (Modi) seems more interested in security and in relations with the West. Palestinians seem to believe that they can no longer count on India's support," added Shikaki.TOI