Part of this report has been published in the Mumbai edition of DNA on Jan 14, 2012
Tel Aviv seeks cooperation in bio-technology, neuro-science
New Delhi: Minister for External Affairs S.M.Krishna during his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories last week, the first in more than a decade by a high-ranked Indian dignitary, had useful ineraction with leaders in the three entities, which reflected the trust that India enjoys here.
Highly placed sources who were with the ministers in the tour have told told DNA that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, or Abu Mazen, told Krishna that Palestinians had complete trust in India and India's closer ties with Israel do not worry them in any way. Abbas was of the view that Indian influence in Israel would be of value to Palestine, and that they were confident that India will always support the concern of Palestine whenever the need arose anywhere.
There cannot be a greater vote of confidence for Indian policy in the region which is backed by the country's vibrant economic growth and the political respect that comes with it. This should dispel the apprehensions of a school of old-time strategists in India who have argued closer ties with Israel will be at the cost of friendship with traditional Indian ties with the Arab countries.
A different and a wider angle view was what Krishna gathered during his talks with the Israeli political top brass in Tel Aviv. They have revealed that they want to look at ties with India at a level beyond that of Israel-Palestine troubled relationship. The sources have said that the issue of Palestine did not arise in Krishna's talks in the Israeli capital.
The Israelis want to deepen cooperation with India beyond drip-irrigation in agriculture and purchase of defence ancillaries. They want to offer doctoral scholarships to Indian researchers not just in the field of agriculture but in bio-technology and neurosciences as well. What Israel is looking to India is a higher level of cooperation which goes beyond strategic, security issues.
The Israelis also shared their view of the Arab sSpring with Krishna. They have opined that the Arab Spring is more a winter than spring. They believe that the changes do not go deep enough. The scepticism may be justified from the Israeli perspective because the conservative Islamic regimes that have replaced the old dictators, and whose attitude towards the Jewish state is likely to be cold if not hostile.
The Israelis are more concerned with Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons programme. The sources have described the Israeli concern with Iran as an existential one. Krishna showed rare candour and told the Israelis that every country has a right to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy programme as long as this is done in conformity with international treaty obligations.
Jordanian leaders have indicated that their political reforms and democratisation process will go on at its own pace and that their priorities are different given the fact that 70 per cent of Jordan's population is below 30 years of age.
What Krishna has brought back are a whole set of changed attitudes, expectations and perceptions about themselves, about India, and about the world, and this valuable information input should shape the country's policy formulations and actions.