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Sharon transformed India-Israel ties

Press Trust of India  |  Jerusalem 

Ariel Sharon, the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India, can be credited with transforming bilateral relations from diminutive defence and trade cooperation to the strategic ties of today.

A retired Israeli defence official, who was involved in coordinating efforts with the Indian political and military leadership during the 1999 Kargil war, said the conflict helped "sow the seeds of trust" but Sharon's premiership "transformed this trust into a long-lasting bond".

It is undeniable that his visit to New Delhi in 2003 gave a big impetus to ties between the two countries, the defence official told PTI.

Sharon died today at the age of 85 after being in a comatose state for the past eight years following a stroke. He was the first Israeli premier to visit India since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1992.

When India and Pakistan fought a war after Pakistani troops occupied strategic heights in the Kargil sector, Israel not only opened its ordnance depots to India but provided photographs from its military satellites.

Sharon can be credited with the transformation of bilateral relations to the strategic ties of today that encompass cooperation in missile defence and counter-terrorism.

Sharon's faith in Indo-Israel ties is said to have also had a positive impact on India's ties with the US.

The two countries lobbied together in Washington to lift a US ban on the transfer of the Israeli Phalcon airborne warning and control system (AWACS) to New Delhi.

Israel has to coordinate its military sales with the US because of close cooperation between the two nations' military industries that often share technological know-how.

The cooperation between India and the US since then has seen a major leap with the signing of the nuclear deal before hitting a low recently due to the controversy over the arrest of senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

It was the war on terror following the September 11 attacks in the US which prompted the three countries to look more closely at common threats, including overlapping terrorist networks and their global reach.

Sharon's visit to India also signalled to the world that India's Arab policy would not be hostage to relations with Israel.

For decades, India was shy of forging relations with Israel, fearful of the Arab opinion, but as an outcome of Sharon's visit, the two countries declared themselves partners in the war against terrorism.

First Published: Sat, January 11 2014. 20:55 IST