IT was another historic meeting for Atal Behari Vajpayee during his five-day New York trip. On September 24, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu visited Vajpayee at his New York Palace Hotel suite on the Madison Avenue amidst unprecedented security, giving a new visibility to Indo-Israeli ties and winning over the influential Jewish lobby in the US.
Analysts attach much importance to this first high-profile meeting between leaders of the two democracies because of the commonality of concerns in national security, anti-terrorism efforts and trade. Indian officials said Vajpayee and Netanyahu had discussed bilateral ties, regional and international issues, including terrorism and the obstacles in the Middle East peace process. Describing the meeting as good, officials said emphasis was also placed on bilateral trade, which already stands at $750 million.
Ever since New Delhi established full diplomatic ties with Jerusalem during P.V. Narasimha Rao's tenure—a move widely praised by Washington—trade and defence ties had been moving apace. However, shortly after the May nuclear tests by the Vajpayee administration, there were some ruffled feelings when the Israeli government inexplicably put off a visit to India by its army chief. India suspects that the Israelis succumbed to pressure from the Clinton administration and postponed his visit.
Before meeting with Netanyahu, Vajpayee conferred with a delegation of prominent leaders from American Jews. Even before the BJP came to power, its leaders had during their US visits held extensive talks with leaders of the highly influential American Jewish community. The Jewish leaders appreciate the BJP'S support for full diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and New Delhi. Moreover, the Sangh parivar's American wings work closely with the Jewish community on issues of mutual interest. In fact, the BJP realises the potency of the so-called 'Jewish lobby' in the US and its surrogates in this country have developed warm ties with this lobby much to the annoyance and envy of Pakistani and Khalistani lobbies. The latest encounter is bound to add more grist to the mill.
N.D. Keshavan in New York