Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pakistan considers closer relationship with Israel

Sort of interesting. They want to be closer to Israel to neutralize the "Zionist lobby" against them in Washington.

Sometimes, ruling the world has its advantages.

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 countries.

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.

Pakistan 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.