|Pakistan seeks relief through
By Syed Saleem
KARACHI - In the changing world,
where many Arab countries, as well as the
Palestinian leadership, have adopted a more
flexible policy toward Israel, decision-makers in
Pakistan are developing a strategy to better
relations with the Jewish state, though without
compromising Islamabad's standing among Islamic
Sources in Pakistan's strategic
circles tell Asia Times Online that Pakistan
believes that cordial relations with Israel will
help neutralize much unnecessary pressure on
Pakistan, and regain lost ground against India.
Indian rhetoric about Pakistan's so-called
fundamentalist Islam portrays the country as the
"naughty boy" of the region which supports anti-US
and anti-Israeli movements. This has contributed
to Pakistan's strategic isolation in South Asia.
Pakistan's leadership believes that
despite support for the US-led "war on terror",
the country does not get the status - and
inducements - it deserves.
initially has tried to open some back channels to
establish communication with Israel, which does
not have any direct grudge against Pakistan,
except for a fear that Pakistan could be capable
of developing nuclear warheads to target Israel.
The sources tell ATol that in behind-the-scenes
talks between officials of the two countries,
Israel has been assured that Pakistan has largely
capped its nuclear warhead program up to a
specific range aimed at deterring India.
Pakistani officials are cautious, though,
not to damage Pakistan's relations with other
Islamic countries, especially Saudi Arabia.
"All decisions [about recognizing Israel]
will be in line with member countries of the OIC
[Organization of Islamic Countries], especially
Arab countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but a
non-diplomatic limited interaction with Israel is
a pragmatic approach in the present geo-strategic
situation of the country and cannot be ruled out
at any stage," a strategic expert told ATol.
"Though it is unrealistic to assume that
Pakistan-Israel relations would immediately get
relief for Pakistan, as there are strong Israeli
reservations on Pakistan's policies, of course
cordial terms with the Zionist state will surely
neutralize Zionist lobbies in Washington in the
Indo-Pakistan arms race," he added.
post-September 11 situation finds Pakistan in
virtual isolation. Its strategic depth in
Afghanistan (pro-Taliban) has been lost, relations
with India remain problematic, although warming,
and Pakistan's pro-US policies have strained its
relations with once most-friendly neighbor Iran.
Pakistan believes that India continues to
receive US favors as its watchdog on both China
and Pakistan - this despite Islamabad's support
for the US in the "war on terror".
for a few military hardware deals and aid
packages, Pakistan has watched with concern how
India appears to be building up its resources.
Delhi is negotiating a deal for the US Patriot
Advanced Capability(PAC)-2 anti-ballistic missile
system and is looking for PAC-3. In addition, a
possible agreement between Dassault Aviation of
France and India will provide the Indian air force
with Mirage 2000-5, a multi-role combat fighter
with advanced avionics.
military planners in general headquarters in
Rawalpindi realize that over the past few years a
level of nuclear deterrence has been achieved
between them and India with the development of
nuclear-capable long and short-range missiles.
This deterrence has prevented the countries from
going to war in the past.
But now India is
seeking to neutralize Pakistan's nuclear threat by
other means, such as the Patriot system and Mirage
Pakistan now wants some
of the same - US military aid packages and loans -
and believes the only way to do this is by
neutralizing the pro-Israel lobby that has in the
past worked against Pakistan's interests.
Already, say ATol sources, this approach
has reaped some dividends: as a result of
backchannel diplomacy, the US has agreed to
provide Pakistan with F-16 aircraft if it also
supplies them to India.
"When everybody is
eyeing Indo-Pakistan relations, there are much
faster developments to bring Israel and Pakistan
closer. Though, not through tours, not cricket,
but real business which will sooner rather than
later yield results," a senior official commented.
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau
Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times Online. He can be
reached at [email protected]
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