New York, Indian ambassador Ronen Sen strongly questioned the rationale of Washington's increasingly close ties with Islamabad, saying long-term common values were being sacrificed at the altar of tactical expediency. In a meeting hosted by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Sen indicated that past incidents of terrorism in India and the ways to finance such activities might have had the active collusion of the Pakistani government. The meeting held during the Republican Convention here was attended by several Republican Congressmen to discuss the nexus between Indian American and Jewish American interests and the triangular coincidence of goals between India, Israel and Washington.
"All right, we understand expediency, but all that we are saying is 'don't let tactical moves sabotage long-term goals'," Sen asserted. He pointed to documented evidence and media reports in the past that had shown terrorist camps being operated by army generals in Pakistan and the links between drug running and terrorism "but this has been ignored". Republican Jim Leach from Iowa tried to defend the George Bush administration declaring Pakistan a close non-Nato ally in the face of evidence of nuclear proliferation.
"The question is how do we respond. Secretary (Colin) Powell has made it clear that Pakistan is the centre of global instability. One thing we are learning is that sometimes we may do things that are counterproductive. Secretary Powell has determined that it's better to be constructive in our relations with Pakistan, and that is in the interests of India as well." Another Republican Chris Smith agreed that it was tough to reconcile nuclear proliferation with building an ally. Though human rights are sometimes relegated to a footnote among diplomats, proliferation, they are "front and centre of our relations with Pakistan", he said. Smith also stressed the importance of demanding explanations on what Islamabad was doing on these issues in every diplomatic meeting. "We hope it will make a difference over time in Pakistan. We cannot not push these issues."
Republican Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina said he saw the commonality of interests between India, Israel and the US. "The artificial barriers between India and the US have been eradicated," he noted. Calling India and Israel "outposts of democracy" Wilson, who chairs the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said: "We have a common situation in that we are all targets of terrorism." India has been a long time target losing 60,000 citizens, Israel has had its losses, and now the US had experienced it. "We are working with Israel and we are working with India. We are in a common war," Wilson asserted.
The Indian ambassador gave a detailed account of the history of relations between Israel and India, the exponential growth in trade and technology relations between the two countries, as well as between the US and India. Just three weeks into his office in Washington, Sen said he was surprised how little was known about the deep-rooted and ancient relations between Israel and India and the Jewish community in India, 70,000 of whom now lived in Israel. The first Jewish settlement in India was in the 1st Century. In World War I, two Indian regiments liberated Haifa from Turkish/German attacks.
India and Israel "are bastions of democracy" and earlier estranged relations were "abnormal", he said. Trade between India and Israel, he noted, had risen to nearly $2 billion from a mere $160 million a few years ago. "It's not an accident that the first country Israel established relations with after the US in order to build institutional structures for counter-terrorism, was India," Sen pointed out. "Terrorism has a method in its madness," he stressed, because it targets the identifiers of democracy, like the stock exchanges in Bombay and New York and the parliament in India.