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Backgrounder India-pakistan Tensions Mirror the Israeli-palestinian Conflict

June 5, 2002
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When Israel this week asked its citizens to cut short their vacations in India, it was reacting to the mounting tensions between India and Pakistan.

Centered on competing demands for the province of Kashmir, the conflict between India and Pakistan has a number of parallels to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

In both cases, territorial demands are a central issue.

In both cases, the two sides have a long and bloody history.

And in both cases, there is no easy solution in sight.

Moreover, both disputes have been complicated by Islamic terrorism, which the victim says is supported by its neighbor’s government.

Just as Israel says it will not negotiate with the Palestinians until there is an end to terror attacks against Israel, India says it will not sit idly by as terrorists launch attacks on India from Pakistan.

In both cases, progress toward resolving the dispute can be foiled by a terror attack.

Similarly, there are repeated vows to halt terrorism — such as those frequently voiced by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat — that are not followed up with substantive action.

Following the bloody attack on the Indian Parliament last December, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf promised to crack down on terrorists.

Musharraf made a gesture of shaking hands with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when the two met in Nepal last January — but Pakistani terrorist attacks continued.

Much as Israel is confident that the continued Palestinian terrorist attacks have Arafat’s backing, so, too, is India convinced that Musharraf does little to deter Pakistan-based terrorists.

Rather than fighting terrorism, Arafat repeatedly attempts to appease Arab terror groups, fearful that they may win the sympathy of the Palestinian population. This week, for example, he invited Hamas and three other Palestinian terror groups to join a new Cabinet — an offer the groups declined.

Similarly, Musharraf attempts to avoid alienating Islamic radical elements, even after supporting the United States war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

India’s prime minister sounded recently as if he had taken a page from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s playbook on Arafat. Vajpayee said recently that he had “had enough of symbolic gestures from Pakistan” and expected “a halt to terrorist acts against India.”

The result has been identical in both cases: Terrorist attacks have led to a halt in contacts between the parties, increasing the chances of further violence.

Vajpayee now views Musharraf, his Pakistani counterpart, much as Sharon views Arafat — as unwilling and unable to curb terrorism.

No negotiations under fire, Vajpayee says, echoing Sharon.

Like the Palestinians, the Pakistanis demand an international presence in Kashmir. Like Israel, India — which controls most of the province — won’t hear of outside involvement.

Also like Israel, India demands that the West immediately halt economic aid to its rival.

Sharon has called Arafat “irrelevant.” Vajpayee treats Musharraf as if he is irrelevant.

The West tells India what it tells Israel about Arafat: Like it or not, he isn’t irrelevant; he’s your peace partner.

This week’s cover of The Economist magazine carried the headline, “Why the World Needs Pakistan’s Dictator to Survive.”

In both conflicts, world powers, particularly the United States, are trying hard to prevent further escalation.

With both India and Pakistan full partners in the nuclear club, the world is particularly concerned about the prospect of escalation — more concerned, at least for now, than about where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may lead.

Just as no one has found the formula to halt the terror emanating from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Arafat’s Fatah minions, it has been equally difficult to stymie the Pakistani terrorists.

Israel, unlike India, has shown a willingness to make deep territorial concessions in exchange for peace, but in neither crisis is there a simple formula to end the conflict, or even put it on hold.

This helps explain the growing strategic alliance between Israel and India, which has been compared to Israel’s strong tie with Turkey.

Both India and Turkey are major Asian democracies determined to fight off Islamic militancy, making them perfect partners for Israel.

Israel and India established full diplomatic relations 10 years ago and have witnessed an improvement in ties, particularly during the past two years.

In March 2000, Jaswant Singh became the first Indian foreign minister to visit Israel. Following the visit, the two countries set up a joint anti-terror commission.

For its part, Israel has openly sided with India in its standoff against Pakistan.

Drawing parallels in the fight against terrorists, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said during a recent visit to India that “Israel is on the side of India in the struggle for peace and against terrorism in every possible way.”

A senior Israeli delegation, headed by Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, head of Israel’s National Security Council, visited India last week to discuss intelligence exchanges and mutual ways to fight terrorism.

The alliance between the two countries is largely based on strong military ties.

India, which is one of Israel’s top military customers, has learned from Israel techniques to defend its long border with Pakistan, as well as how to develop highly sophisticated weapons.

India hopes to approach Israeli prowess in counter-terrorism, night warfare and air surveillance.

The United States has given Israel a green light to sell India three of its Falcon airborne early-warning systems. The sale could amount to nearly $1 billion.

According to Israeli and Indian media reports, Israel also will sell India ground-to-ground Barak missiles for $280 million, pilotless surveillance planes for $300 million and a radar system for $250 million.

Israeli experts also plan to modernize other parts of the Indian army. They reportedly will renovate hundreds of MIG-21 and MIG-29 jets, Sukhoi helicopters and Russian-made T-72 tanks.

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