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MEA team's visit incensed Israel

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Secretary Rajiv Sikri behaved ‘more often as the representative of the Palestinians'

In an extraordinary outburst, recorded in a U.S. Embassy cable from New Delhi, and accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, Israel's Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, Yoed Magen, accused a senior official of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of behaving “more often as the representative of the Palestinians, rather than India” during a visit to Israel in August 2005.

According to the cable, sent on September 1, 2005 ( >39624: secret ), Mr. Magen gave U.S. Ambassador David Mulford “an unexpectedly downbeat readout of the August 28 visit to Jerusalem by MEA Secretary East Rajiv Sikri.” The Israeli diplomat told Mr. Mulford that the Israelis refused to issue the customary post-visit joint statement after the Indian delegation “insisted” that it should be with the dateline Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem.

“The Israelis went all out for this visit,” Ambassador Mulford relayed to Washington, “supplementing the formal Foreign Office talks (led by Deputy Director-General for Asia and Pacific Amos Nadai) with a call on Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom. Magen reported that Indian Ambassador to Tel Aviv Arun K. Singh seemed shocked by Sikri's unreformed positions on issues like disengagement, adding that the Indian delegation appeared completely unmoved by changes sparked by Arafat's death, the Gaza withdrawal, and strengthened India-Israel ties. ‘It was like nothing had changed', the Israeli DCM concluded.”

In perhaps an unintended give-away, Mr. Magen “confirmed that the Israeli Embassy had been the source for a recent front page story and editorial in the pro-BJP Pioneer criticizing India for its failure to acknowledge the Gaza withdrawal.”

The MEA earlier rebuffed the Israeli Embassy when it asked for a statement on Gaza, saying that disengagement was only one step in a long process.”

Ambassador Mulford, of course, made no secret of where his sympathies lay. In a comment, titled “Profiles in Cowardice,” he waxed eloquent on one of his favourite themes, the “duplicity” of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's Israel policy: “The contrast in public approaches between the NDA and UPA government could not be more stark. The continued old-think in MEA … clashes with India's proposal during the visit last week of Israel's Chief Scientist Eli Opper to expand the soon-to-be-established USD 2 million per year joint Indo-Israeli R&D fund to USD 25 million … It also stands in marked contrast to India's expanding defense trade with Israel. The GOI is willing to get down to business with Israel in defense, commercial, and scientific areas … However, the foreign policy establishment remains mired firmly in the past as the Congress-led UPA (beholden to India's 130 million Muslims for a chunk of its political support) continues to posture itself as the defender of Palestinian ambitions. The net result of this duplicity is that others have done more with Israel than the UPA.”

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 3:59:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/MEA-teams-visit-incensed-Israel/article14949550.ece

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