Seeking closer ties with Israel, former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf said the Jewish state is a fait accompli, relations with it can help Islamabad come closer to the strong Jewish lobby in the US and in its conflict against India.
Musharraf, who is planning to return to Pakistan on January 25 or 27, in his first interview to an Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" said getting closer to Israel would be in the interest of his country as "Israel has always been pro-India against Pakistan."
He said defying popular sentiment in Pakistan, he shook hand with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the UN, spoke to the American Jewish Congress as the Head of the State and sent his foreign minister Khurshid Mahmoud Kasuri to meet the then Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Istanbul.
"I felt I needed to test the waters in Pakistan when it comes to Israel. Yes. We have been anti-Israel in Pakistan because of Palestine, because the Pakistani people are on the side of the Palestinians and concerned for their plight. Right from the beginning, from when we got our independence in 1947 and Israel came into reality a year later, we have been pro- Palestine," said Musharraf, who is planning to return to Pakistan on January 25 or 27.
"But I believe in realism and in assessing ground realities. I think it's necessary to understand the changing environment, analyse it - and respond. A lot has happened since '48, and one has to adjust. Policies are made, yes, but when the environment changes, policies should change. Policies should not remain constant," he said justifying his gestures towards the Jewish state.
The General feels that his country can continue to support the Palestinian cause but should not err in grasping changed global scenario.
"Israel is a fait accompli. A lot of the Muslim world have understood that and I know many Muslim countries have relations with Israel, whether above board or covertly. So this is the change in reality I am talking about", Musharraf said.
"Pakistan has to keep demanding the resolution of the Palestinian dispute... [but] Pakistan also needs to keep readjusting its diplomatic stand toward Israel based on the mere fact that it exists and is not going away," he asserted.
Musharraf said defying the popular sentiment in Pakistan he stood by his actions of shaking hand with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the UN, speaking to the American Jewish Congress as the Head of the State and sending his foreign minister Khurshid Mahmoud Kasuri to meet the then Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Istanbul.
In his interview, he said, the public gave a positive response to his initiatives completely forgetting the widespread furore it caused in Pakistan with the secular parties accusing him of playing up to the Americans and the religious parties threatening street protests to oust the government if it took even a small step toward the recognition of Israel.
His government had to immediately backtrack with both Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed reiterating Pakistan's traditional policy toward Israel, and the Foreign Office jumping in and joining the chorus.
Musharraf however insists that "there was no negative fallout", though admitting that "it was a risk".
Ties With Israel Can Help Pak Vis-a-Vis India: Musharraf
Harinder Mishra / Jerusalem
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