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Pranab 'forced' to defer Israel visit

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  • Joseph M. Hochstein
    The Times of India July 1, 2006 Pranab forced to defer Israel visit by Rajat Pandit http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1694335.cms NEW DELHI:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2006
      The Times of India
      July 1, 2006

      Pranab 'forced' to defer Israel visit
      by Rajat Pandit
      http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1694335.cms

      NEW DELHI: Political sensitivities seem to have torpedoed defence
      minister Pranab Mukherjee's proposed visit to Israel in early-July to
      discuss ways to further strengthen the already strong defence
      relationship between the two countries.

      With tensions between the Israeli and Hamas governments escalating to a
      new high, and the Left putting pressure on the UPA government to
      strongly oppose the recent Israeli attacks in Gaza Strip, Mukherjee's
      visit has been "deferred" for the moment.

      Defence ministry officials, who had feverishly prepared for Mukherjee's
      visit which was to begin from July 7, were reluctant to say anything.
      But sources said the external affairs ministry had strongly conveyed to
      the government that this was not the right time for a senior minister to
      visit Israel.

      The previous NDA regime had given a big push to defence ties with
      Israel, which have been carried on with by and large the same momentum
      by the UPA government.

      Israel, for instance, has emerged as the second-largest military
      supplier to India, with sales worth a staggering Rs 12,000 crore over
      the last four years.

      Mukherjee would have been the UPA government's senior-most leader to
      visit Israel if the trip had not been cancelled at virtually the last
      moment.

      Heading a high-level delegation, Mukherjee was slated to discuss several
      defence projects, ranging from the advanced version of the Barak
      anti-missile defence system to UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and
      thermal imagers, with the top Israeli leadership.

      But with Israel now rounding up several Palestinian cabinet ministers
      and Hamas MPs to mount pressure on militants to release a captured
      Israeli soldier, the situation is spinning out of control in the
      troubled region.

      Trying to strike a balance, India has called upon all sides to observe
      restraint and re-open the dialogue process. Holding that the Israeli
      soldier's release would contribute to defusing the growing tension,
      India has urged all sides to desist from starting a new spiral of
      violence and counter-violence.

      "It's our firm conviction that there can only be a peaceful negotiated
      resolution to the Palestinian problem that results in the establishment
      of a sovereign, viable, independent State of Palestine living in peace
      and prosperity within secure borders in peaceful coexistence with
      Israel," said MEA recently.

      The CPM politburo, of course, would like India to do more. "We call upon
      the Indian government to oppose the brutal attacks of Israel on the
      Palestinian population and its elected representatives," it said on
      Friday.
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