Embassy held discussions in Delhi and Mumbai with ‘focus groups' to improve its public image.

Israel is desperately trying to create a “shinier image of itself as a friend of the Indian people'' to match its growing diplomatic clout in New Delhi, U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford noted in a cable, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

He suggested that Americans could learn from Israel's “public relations strategy.''

The cable, dated March 28, 2008 (147610: confidential), is titled “Israel polishing its image — and its hardware in India,” in a reference to its bourgeoning arms trade with India. Sent a few weeks after a widely publicised India-Israel Strategic Dialogue session held in New Delhi, it said that Israel was particularly concerned about the Left's criticism of the Indian government's increasingly “closer ties'' with it and was trying to “counter'' it by cultivating public opinion.

Israel's Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi Eli Belotsercovsky told American diplomats that the embassy had held discussions with “focus groups'' in Delhi and Mumbai as part of its campaign to improve its public image. The discussions showed that while Israel was now viewed “more favorably by the Indian public than in the past,'' there was still a vast “knowledge gap'' with “very limited knowledge about the country, even among educated professionals.''

According to the cable, Mr. Belotsercovsky “noted that their polling suggested many Indians actually see Israel as a model for dealing with Muslims — something the Israeli Embassy makes efforts to downplay.''

It concluded with the suggestion that the U.S. “can learn from the Israelis” success in India.''

“We will remain engaged with the Israeli Embassy and follow whether its public relations strategy to win hearts and minds has any success in swaying the general public while defusing attacks from India's Left. Israel's success in this area could yield strategies for the USG's (United States Government) own efforts at bridging the gap between the Indian public's enthusiasm and the government's skepticism of the U.S.,'' it said.