More About Israel and Pakistan

I have argued before that Pakistan should recognize Israel.

There have been some ambiguous signs regarding relations between these two countries recently. First, there was Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf meeting Israeli opposition leader Shimon Peres during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The Davos Conference was the site of a rare and unusual meeting yesterday. Pervez Musharraf, President of the world’s sole Muslim nuclear power, held a long conversation with opposition leader, MK Shimon Peres, and even shook his hand.

The historic meeting resulted from a random encounter between the two figures. Musharraf recognized Peres among the hundreds of guests at the hotel’s main lobby, approached him, and warmly shook his hand. Peres was the one to initiate the conversation, saying: “Mr. President, there are so many rumors about the relations being formed between our countries”.

Musharraf smiled heartily and confirmed the message. “We are undertaking great efforts for this to happen”, he said, but added: “You hold the responsibility to move forward with the Palestinians”.

Peres’ tone change, as he sent a clear message: “My friend, an efficient and positive peace currently prevails in the Middle East, and we will continue to act in order to reach a deal with the Palestinians. But we need a strong leadership to fight terrorism, so we can change things and bring peace and stability”.

At the end of the conversation, Peres invited Musharraf to visit Israel, with the Pakistani president replying: “Inshallah” (God willing) as the two parted warmly. Musharraf then turned to answer Maariv’s question about his intention to accept Peres’ invitation, saying that once relations between the two countries are normalized, he will be glad to visit Israel.

Pakistani officials played down the meeting.

Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan in an interview with BBC Radio, however, described President Musharraf’s meetings with former Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and other officials as incidental. “The meeting was incidental. During the meeting, brief talks were held.”

When asked if there is any chance of relations with Israel, the spokesman said, “Pakistan’s stance on Palestine issue is intact. We favour settlement of the Palestinian issue in accordance with the UN resolutions and efforts being made to bring peace in Middle East through the roadmap.”

“When Palestine emerges as a sovereign state and co-exists with Israel as an independent state, a situation will create in which Pakistan will be ready to review its policy towards Israel,” he said.

Masood said: “Last year the president had started a debate about Israel. He had said we must see its pros and cons.” “There has been a debate in the country although it is still inconclusive. The people have expressed different opinion. We are carefully watching the situation in Middle East,” he said.

Commenter John pointed me towards a statement by Israeli Agirculture Minister Yisrael Katz.

Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz said Tuesday that he will travel to Pakistan in March.

[…] “I was indeed invited to visit this coming March to Pakistan and I replied to the invitation,” Katz told Israel Radio. “The invitation was sent via Jacques Diouf, head of the Food and Agriculture Agency of the United Nations, of which Israel is an active member.

“I certainly give great importance to the expected visit and I presume it comes in light of the improvement of relations between Pakistan and Israel.

“The fact that both states, in addition to many others, are going with the United States president, under the leadership of the President of the United States George Bush, in step with states struggling against terror and not supporting terror, certainly provides a basis for cooperation, especially in the agricultural field and in food production, something which can of course benefit the Pakistani population and possible cooperation between Israel and Pakistan in the future.”

But Israeli Foreign Minister and Pakistani officials poured cold water on it.

But both Pakistan and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom have said they have no knowledge of Katz’s invitation. “This appointment does not suit us,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry tersely announced.

A foreign ministry spokesman said that “the continued leaks, including mistaken information, harm Israel’s ability to further its relations with the states of the world.”

Pakistan then postponed the UN meeting.

Pakistani has postponed hosting a United Nations meeting which would have been attended by an Israeli minister. The meeting, planned for March, would have been the first visit to Pakistan by an Israeli minister. The minister, Israel Katz, says he was invited to Islamabad by the United Nations delegation. Pakistan has no diplomatic ties with Israel and a foreign ministry spokesman insisted it has not issued an invitation to Mr Katz.

There have also been other contacts between Pakistani and Israeli officials recently.

Foreign Ministry Director General, Yoav Biran, recently met with a senior figure in Pakistan’s foreign ministry. The meeting, kept secret until now, serves as further testimony to the warming up between the two countries, reported in Maariv yesterday. The two officials apparently met in a European capital following a series of meetings between lower ranking Pakistani and Israeli officials.

These are not the first contacts between Pakistani and Israeli officials. They are, however, the first public ones since Pakistani Foreign Minister Zafrullah Khan met Chaim Weizmann in April 1948 (yes, I know, this was before Israel was established) or the Abba Eban—Zafrullah Khan meetings at the UN in 1952—53.

Beyond the Veil: Israel—Pakistan Relations talks about the contacts between Israeli and Pakistani officials over the years.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (later Prime Minister), as head of a Pakistani delegation to a UN Conference, met his Israeli counterpart, Shabtai Rosenne, in 1958.

In 1994, Pakistan’s ambassador at the UN, Ahmad Kamal, attended a reception hosted by his Israeli counterpart, Gad Ya’acobi. […] This was not the first time that a diplomat from one of the countries had attended a party hosted by the other. Such diplomatic encounters have been happening for a long time. For instance, as early as in November 1958, Israeli ambassador in Holland Hanan Cidor attended a farewell reception hosted by Pakistani ambassador Begum Liaquat Ali Khan, the widow of Pakistan’s first President.

[…] In September 1995, The News [Pakistani newspaper] reported that “during the Afghan war highly skilled Israelis provided guerrilla training to some Afghan groups and in the later stage of the Afghan war the chief of Pakistan’s most respected intelligence service had held a top secret meeting with a senior Mossad official in Vienna.”

[…] In May 1996, another report suggested that Pakistani law enforcement officials met with top brass of Israeli intelligence during a conference on counterterrorism in the Philippines.

[…] The United Nations has functioned as the prime meeting point for Israeli and Pakistani diplomats; such contacts date back to the early 1950s. Even while not participating in official meetings with Israeli representatives, Pakistani diplomats often met them in private and apologized for their inability to attend such meetings. […] Bilateral contacts were maintained in numerous other venues, ranging from Tokyo in the East to Ottawa in the West; some of these contacts and discussions took place at parties hosted by the Indian embassies.

The difference between those meetings and the recent ones is mainly that the current meetings have gotten publicity.

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


  1. The difference between those meetings and the recent ones is mainly that the current meetings have gotten publicity.

    Very true; I think recognition is the way to go, can’t really think of any arguments against it which aren’t spurious. If concern for the Palestinians is an issue, I think more influence can be exerted if there are some formal diplomatic relations than not; as if there is no dialogue at all then it is difficult to see how any positive contribution can be possibly made by Pakistan in this matter —- which is, I assume the rationale of those who might argue against recognition. Establihsing relations is the smart move if any constructive efforts are desired in this regard; of course one could argue that this is a smokescreen and the real reasons behind any weighing up on the issue will rest on the ability to overcome opportunist urges to use it as a sop to the religious fundamentalists at home. For a number of reasons, I feel that this kind of calculus would be a short-sighted and ultimately self-defeating approach to take.

  2. Both countries were created based on similar ideologies yet there is no reson to rush into a decision. we must act like an independent nation and make our decisions by ourselves after completely reviewing our needs not under the pressure of some xyz state.

  3. Conrad: the real reasons behind any weighing up on the issue will rest on the ability to overcome opportunist urges to use it as a sop to the religious fundamentalists at home.

    That is indeed a possibility. That is why I argued in one of my previous posts that the best way to go forward on recognition is to get a few constituencies behind it. For example, businessmen. I don’t get the feeling right now that there is any group or political party in favor right now and the government doesn’t seem to care. They are too much into the military command and control habit.

    Moiz: No reason to rush, but no reason to delay it indefinitely either. If Pakistan wants something out of a relationship with Israel, then it will have to establish relations now rather than when the Palestinian issue is resolved.

    not under the pressure of some xyz state.

    While it’s a good idea to make the correct decision yourself, external pressure is not always bad. If it were not for US pressure, Pakistan would not have ended its support for the Taliban, for example. I am not an absolutist on national sovereignty and would take a good decision coming from whichever quarter.

    My impression of the talk of Israeli recognition is that it is based much more on our India problem than US pressure. India and Israel are cooperating in a lot of areas while Pakistan is completely left out.

  4. Pakistan has to stop being the spokesperson for the collective Ummah (muslim world). Despite any and all religious bigotry on either side for which there is no basis. It is in the interest of Pakistan as a peace loving state not to mention geo-political realities to seek positive peaceful relation with all nations including Israel. The issue of the resolution of Pelestinian issues should be based solely on humanitarian grounds backed by legitimate UN resolutions.

  5. Pakistan should have relations with Israel. Pakistan is not a Arab country and not even part of the arab league, wonder if Egypt and Jordan which are Arab countries can have relations with ISreal then why can’t pakistan have diplomatic relations with isreal. Diplomatic relations with ISrael will not mean that we abandon our friendship with palestians, infact friendly diplomatic relations with israel can only help the situation of palestians because then we can at least talk to the isrealis.

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