Israel is taking steps to create a shinier image of itself as a friend of the Indian people, to match its image as India,s premier supplier of defense technology.

147610, 3/28/2008 9:39, 08NEWDELHI892, Embassy New Delhi, CONFIDENTIAL,, "VZCZCXRO7126OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROVDE RUEHNE #0892/01 0880939ZNY CCCCC ZZHO 280939Z MAR 08FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHITO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1078INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVERUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVERUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDCRUEAIIA/CIA WASHDCRHEHNSC/NSC WASHDCRUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DCRHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HIRUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDCRUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL","C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 000892

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/28/2018 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MARR, MASS, IS, IN SUBJECT: ISRAEL POLISHING ITS IMAGE--AND ITS HARDWARE--IN INDIA

Classified By: PolCouns Ted Osius for Reasons 1.4 (B,D)

1. (C) SUMMARY. The recent strategic dialogue between Israel and India, while not producing any new agreements, was viewed as a positive step at greater cooperation and coordination between the two countries. Israel is taking steps to create a shinier image of itself as a friend of the Indian people, to match its image as India,s premier supplier of defense technology. In the long term, Israel hopes to counter the effects of the Left,s recently increasing attacks on the Indian government,s closer ties to Israel. END SUMMARY.

STRATEGIC DIALOGUE

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2. (C) In a March 25 meeting, Israeli Deputy Chief of Mission Eli Belotsercovsky provided Poloffs with a readout of the March 10-11 India-Israel Strategic Dialogue. Belotsercovsky reported that although there were no announcements of new agreements or initiatives, Israel sees the fact that the dialogue took place in a cordial atmosphere as a sign of a healthy relationship. Additional Secretary (Political and International Organizations) Vivek Katju led the Indian delegation, which Belotsercovsky indicated was a pleasingly high level as far as Israel was concerned, and led discussions focused on Iran and nuclear non-proliferation in the region, Central Asia, Afghanistan, energy and the economy. Belotsercovsky cited dialogue on the issues of financing of narcotrafficking and money laundering as being particularly ripe for future cooperation. An added benefit of the discussions being held in Tel Aviv was increased awareness of India with a sector of the Israeli bureaucracy that heretofore didn,t know much about India.

POSITIVE VIBES, BUT DEARTH OF ISRAEL INFO AMONG INDIANS

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3. (C) Turning to Israel-India ties in general, Belotsercovsky told Poloffs that Israel was viewed more favorably by the Indian public than in the past, and that the Israeli government was taking steps to capitalize on the improved image. In focus groups in Delhi and Mumbai conducted by the Israeli Embassy, Indians regardless of status generally held favorable views of Israel, Belotsercovsky said, but had very limited knowledge about the country, even among educated professionals. The focus groups, results show that most Indians do not have enough information to possess a good understanding of Israel but view Israel overall as a friend to the Indian people. 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.

INDIAN LEFTISTS OPPOSE CLOSER INDO-ISRAELI TIES

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4. (C) Belotsercovsky said the purpose of conducting the public opinion research was to improve Israel,s image in the India public while at the same time limiting attempts by India,s Left parties to demonize Israel and counter its bitter rhetoric at Indo-Israeli cooperation on defense. Belotsercovsky postulated the Left,s anti-Israel attacks were more frequent and voracious than any other time since formalization of relations in 1990.

5. (C) P R Kumaraswamy, a professor at New Delhi,s Jawaharlal Nehru University, in a separate conversation with Poloff, agreed with Belotsercovsky,s assessment, saying that in the past decade, India,s Communist parties have criticized the government,s strategic ties with Israel and judge this as a betrayal of the Palestinians and harmful to India's interests. According to Kumaraswamy, Leftists even argued that closer military ties were the result of the ""anti-Muslim agenda"" of Israel and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He noted that since December 2007, the parties of the Left, and Indian Muslims, have used the occasion of India,s successful launch of a remote sensing satellite to lob a fresh barrage of vitriol at the UPA-led government, claiming that &India is aiding the military efforts of Israel8 and that the government is showing &unforgivable insensitivity to the Palestinians and Iran.8 NEW DELHI 00000892 002 OF 002

6. (C) Despite the Left,s critiques, Belotsercovsky pointed out that bilateral ties, buoyed by defense trade, are vibrant. The Indian government is the largest purchaser of Israeli arms, and Israel, already India,s second largest arms supplier, could surpass Russia soon for the top spot. A few days after he publicly informed parliament of the USD 1.4 billion Barak missile cooperation with Israel in July 2007, Indian Defense Minister A K Antony told Indian media, ""Successive governments since 1992 have had defense ties with Israel. This is not new. And the relation is not ideological, but purely based on our security requirements.""

COMMENT: WE CAN LEARN FROM THE ISRAELIS, SUCCESS IN INDIA

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7. (C) Comment: Israel appears to have some problems identical to--and other problems that are the opposite of)-those the U.S. has in India: Whereas the U.S. polls positively with the Indian public on a regular basis yet still butts against entrenched skepticism in the bureaucracy towards closer relations with the USG, Israel faces a huge knowledge gap among the public yet sees India,s government comfortably dismiss the Left,s criticism of its launch of Israel,s satellites and its skyrocketing purchases of Israeli defense technology. 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 own efforts at bridging the gap between the Indian public,s enthusiasm and the government,s skepticism of the U.S. Meanwhile, Belotsercovsky said that Israel welcomes increased Indian participation in the peace process, and is urging India to contribute to concrete projects and more people-to-people exchanges. If India and Israel, two of the strongest democracies in Asia, are able to solidify their relationship and move beyond missiles and satellites, that could be good news for U.S. interests between Tel Aviv and New Delhi. End comment.

MULFORD