‘Goal is to neutralise terror tunnels’
Daniel Carmon | August 01, 2014, 07.08 am IST
Rarely in a diplomat’s career is one lucky enough to have a posting that is important and interesting, combining the elements of classic diplomacy with the new tools of development diplomacy, new media and social networks.
Israel and India established full diplomatic relations just 22 years ago during the time of P.V. Narasimha Rao. Never-theless, the relations between our two civilisations date back thousands of years. The Jewish community in India is one of the cornerstones of these relations. Jews have been living in India peacefully for generations. India’s unique, tolerant and welcoming society allowed them to flourish and become an integral part of the amazing mosaic of what we all know as India. The relationship between Israel and India is based on common values, challenges and interests. Our two nations are democracies that promote freedom of speech, encourage innovation and entrepreneurship and from a very early age inculcate in their people the desire to grow, evolve, always be better and achieve more.
The partnership between India and Israel is not new to me. In the last nine years, I have been closely engaged with the issue of international development, both at the UN, where Israel initiated many resolutions on agriculture and entrepreneurship for development, and particularly, in the last three years as deputy director-general of the ministry of foreign affairs and head of MASHAV — Israel’s International Development Cooperation Agency. Until recently, I led the biggest agricultural project Israel has been involved with anywhere in the world, a project that benefits tens of thousands of Indian farmers. I am proud to represent a country that has been, and in some aspects still is, a living “development laboratory”. Over the years we have tried and succeeded to meet challenges similar to those described in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Tri-colour Revolution” and have gained expertise in agriculture, dairy industry, solar energy, water management and conservation. Cooperation in these fields is imperative to both our countries, together with civil society, academia and applied R&D in which we already have a number of programmes and platforms. The bilateral commercial relations between India and Israel is one of the pillars on our partnership and will continue to be so.
Mahatma Gandhi had said: “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So we have to hand over to them at least as it been handed over to us.” Those wise words guide us to make our world safer and better for our children and grandchildren.
Like many in Israel, I am not the first one in my family to be fascinated with India. Two of my children have already travelled across India, as 40,000 Israelis do every year, with a similar number of Indians coming to Israel. In order to increase this number, we have recently opened an office of our tourism ministry in Mumbai, serving all of India.
Last but not least are the defence ties between the two countries. Israel and India face common threats and challenges that can be jointly addressed. We recently signed bilateral agreements in homeland security and counter-terrorism to create a framework for both countries. It will provide us an important and useful tool to save the lives of Israelis and Indians. Terror and state-sponsored terrorism are a global danger to us all. They can affect each and every aspect of our lives and livelihood as it has struck Indians and Israelis more than once. Terror is born out of extreme ideology that targets those who do not share the same perception. Terror could strike in Jerusalem, Mumbai or Mosul in different forms, but the ideology is the same and the best way to confront it is to join hands.
In recent years, and especially since June 12, my country is facing continuous rocket attacks by the Hamas terrorist organisation that unlawfully rules the Gaza Strip — 18,000 rockets have been fired by Hamas and other terror organisations since Israel unilaterally left Gaza in 2005. After three weeks of Israeli restraint, when Hamas further escalated the intensity of rocket attacks, Israel was left with no choice but to respond, as any country would do.
Hamas commits a double war crime. On the one hand it specifically targets its rockets, more than 2,600 in the last three weeks, on the Israeli civilian population. On the other hand it does so out of inhabited areas, schools, hospitals and mosques while using the civilian population in Gaza as human shields. Hamas is also using terror tunnels to infiltrate into Israel in order to kidnap or kill Israelis. Israel laments the loss of any uninvolved civilian but stresses that the responsibility for those deaths lies solely with Hamas. Israel is doing its utmost to protect the uninvolved citizens in Gaza by distributing pamphlets, making phone calls and sending SMSes to the civil population asking them to leave areas serving as launching grounds and other terrorist infrastructure. The Hamas interior minister ordered them to act as human shields. People who tried to leave were terrorised. Israel has agreed to all six ceasefires proposed by Egypt or the UN while Hamas had violated each and every one of those.
Israel’s goal is to stop the rocket fire at its civilian population and neutralise the terror tunnels that threaten Israeli communities. Parallel to the evolving situation on the ground and attempts to reach a sustainable ceasefire, Israel expects the support of the international community in its fight against terrorism. When I arrived a few days ago in New Delhi, I was gratified to hear foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s words about the importance of India-Israel relations. The Israeli government, through its embassy in New Delhi, is fully committed to further enhance the bilateral relations with Mr Modi’s new government, in every field, forum and arena where Israel and India meet.
Daniel Carmon, Israel’s new ambassador to India, presented his credentials to President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday. He has earlier served as ambassador to the UN, and in Argentina and the United States.