Amid emerging bonhomie with Pakistan, Israel has said it never had any plans with India to take out Islamabad's nuclear assets and made it clear that it wanted to keep its relations with New Delhi separate from the Islamic nation.
Israel never participated in any plan with India to take out Pakistan's nuclear assets because it does not see Islamabad as a threat, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said in an interview to a Pakistani daily published today.
Shalom, who recently had a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri in Turkey, also said that never in the last 58 years "Israel considered Pakistan an enemy" and had always believed public assurances from Islamabad that "the country's nuclear programme is not directed against Israel."
"There never ever was a plan to take out Pakistan's nuclear programme," he told the Dawn daily when asked for comments on a statement by former army chief Mirza Aslam Beg that India and Israel had finalized a plan in 1991 to launch air strikes on the country's nuclear installations.
These are conspiracy theories that are floated against Israel from time to time," said the Israeli Foreign Minister. "We believed the public assurances issued in Islamabad but never sought a secret assurance because we believed what was being said publicly."
The Israeli Foreign Minister also emphasized that Israel wanted to keep its relations with India separate from that of Pakistan. "Our relations with India are not against any country. We never have and never will participate in any plan with India or any other country to harm Pakistan."
Shalom said that although Pakistan was a Muslim country with nuclear weapons, it was "not Iran because it is not despotic and is not run by clerics who have vowed to destroy Israel."
Pakistan, he said, had also never been involved in any plan to harm Israel like Iran, Syria and Libya had been. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the sidelines of the General Assembly summit. Musharraf also addressed the American Jewish Congress here on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
He has said Pakistan would move "carefully" on recognising Israel and doing business with it while pointing out that Tel Aviv is a technologically advanced state and Islamabad could benefit from it. To a question on how old are Israel's ties with Pakistan, Shalom said "the contacts have been going on for a very long time. Direct contacts. Not through other countries. Our people also had been meeting officials of the Pakistani missions at various countries. All these were very low profile contacts. Never at the level of an ambassador."
He said these did play a role in creating the environment for his Istanbul meeting with Kasuri. When asked which will be the next Muslim country to recognize Israel, Shalom said he had met Foreign Minister of Qatar on Thursday. "At least 10 countries are engaged with us. Some more than others." When asked if these contacts will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, he said, "it is up to the Palestinians. There has to be a full implementation of the 'roadmap'."