With Nehru writing to its PM, Israel gave arms to India in 1962

Jawaharlal Nehru with the Indian UNE contingent in Gaza on May 19, 1960. India has been a supporter of the Palestine cause.  

Despite his strong ties with the Arab world, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not hesitate to reach out to Israel when the situation demanded.

According to documents in the Israeli archives in Jerusalem, at the peak of the 1962 India-China hostilities, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion wrote to Nehru expressing Israel’s “fullest sympathy and understanding”, and provided weapons to the Indian forces.

In a November 18, 1962 letter to Ben Gurion, Nehru writes, “We are grateful for your concern for the serious situation that we face today in our border regions. I am sure you will appreciate that while India has never claimed an inch of territory belonging to another country and is traditionally and fundamentally wedded to ideals of peace and friendly settlement of disputes, she cannot but resist aggression on her own soil in the interest of safeguarding national integrity and maintaining respect for standards of international behaviour.”

The cable, which was accessed by The Hindu at the Israeli archives, is part of a series of exchanges between the two leaders during October-November 1962. Both leaders refer to the situation on the Indian borders in their messages as the India-China conflict had begun on October 20 and continued till the last week of November.

The first cable was sent by Nehru on October 27. The Israeli leader responded on November 2, 1962 to say: “All our efforts have been and are directed to the preservation of peace — in our area and throughout the world. Jerusalem, the name of our capital in Hebrew, means the city of peace.

“I am in total agreement with the views expressed by Your Excellency that it is incumbent upon us to do all in our power. All states big or small must be guaranteed of their sovereignty. We believe that every possible support should be lent to every measure contributing towards easing of tension on your borders so that India will once again be able to devote its undivided energies under your distinguished leadership to construction and development.”

The message was carried to the Prime Minister’s Office by the Bombay-based Consul General of Israel, Arieh Eilan, who stayed at the Ashoka Hotel in the capital during this period of hectic communication.

Continued contacts

The Nehru-Ben Gurion exchanges indicate that India and Israel, which are observing the 25th anniversary of formal diplomatic relationship, maintained contacts at the highest possible level much before formal ties were established in January 1992.

A note from the same collection from 1968 reveals that India had sourced Israeli weapons during the war with China. Not wishing to alienate its Arab friends, India had requested Israel to deliver the weapons in ships that did not fly the Israeli flags.

However, Ben Gurion had put his foot down saying, “No flag. No weapons.” The weapons were eventually supplied in Israeli ships flying the Jewish state’s flag.

B.K. Nehru’s efforts

The archives reveal that Israel remained in close touch with not just Nehru but also other members of the Nehruvian regime, including India’s then ambassador to the United States B.K. Nehru, who courted the Jewish lobby in Washington to facilitate essential discussion between two sides.

B.K. Nehru wrote to Congressman Emanuel Celler on September 3, 1963 conveying that India was in favour of people-to-people contacts between the two sides.

He assured that New Delhi had not prevented its citizens from travelling to Israel and is open to Israeli travellers.

“We have long recognised Israel as an independent, sovereign state and our relation with that country have always been harmonious and friendly,” said the envoy who had a Jewish connect through his wife Fori.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 1:30:10 AM |

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