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India seduces Sharon

Talks with ministers and the warmth of his welcome in Delhi have convinced Sharon of India's choice to go the extra mile with Israel.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2003 03:02 IST

Protestors may wish otherwise, but his meetings with Indian ministers and the warmth of his welcome in New Delhi have convinced Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that India has made a strategic decision to go the extra mile with Israel.

There is reason to believe Sharon was mildly sceptical of India. India had a record of Palestinian-backing, Israel-bashing and, more recently, back-patting Iran.

His predecessor, the dovish Shimon Peres is the traditional torchbearer of the India flame. Peres shared the belief of Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion, that what Indians thought of Jews would be crucial to the Jewish race's future.

Sharon, whose autobiography was titled Warrior, has his feet closer to the ground.

But after the first day, the present Israeli regime was convinced India had made a conscious decision to proceed down a path with Israel, separate from India's diplomatic trajectory with the Arab world. "This was very clear. It was impossible not to see it," said a senior Israeli source.

Both governments recognised the relationship had plenty of baggage. They steered it away from thickets and towards the commons.

Hence the two countries agreed on generic concepts regarding terrorism. Democracies need to stand together against terrorism. There should be no compromises with terror. The two countries will share methods, ideas and experiences.

"When we speak of cooperation it does not mean Indian and Israeli units are going to fight together in this area or our region," said an Israeli official. That will be for a much later date, if ever.

The two carefully avoided diplomatic quagmires like Kashmir and Palestine. Israel has no influence on the former. India has no real say in the latter. If New Delhi was ambiguous on Yasser Arafat, Tel Aviv declined to indict Pervez Musharraf.

While the agreements signed sounded pretty anodyne, they were about pushing the Indo-Israeli relationship out of the rut of weapons and diamonds.

It is safe to say India passed a personal test with Sharon. Israeli sources say this is one relationship that will be tended to at the highest level. "We find in India a true partner to our goals," said a senior official.

First Published: Sep 10, 2003 00:00 IST