Israelis, Pakistanis watch and wait as ties develop

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Since last Thursday’s surprise meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri in Istanbul, Turkey, both the governments of Israel and Pakistan at various times played up and played down the impression that full diplomatic relations, while not on the immediate horizon, were certainly on their way to development.

Officials at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem stated that there was cautious optimism following the meeting and officials in Islamabad reiterated that any diplomatic relations with Israel were contingent on the reaching of a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with further Israeli withdrawals from disputed territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Pakistani officials, speaking on behalf of President Pervez Musharraf, have noted that Pakistan has no formal dispute with Israel and that Pakistan’s relations with the Arab world would not necessarily deteriorate should Israel-Pakistan ties develop, citing the example that the Arab world has not given Pakistan much support in the country’s dispute with India over the region of Kashmir.

Observers note that it is in Pakistan’s interest to develop formal ties with Israel in order to improve the Pakistan’s image in Washington as well as to counter-balance Israel’s strong diplomatic and defense ties with Pakistan’s neighbor India. For its part, Israel wishes to develop and/or improve relations with Arab and Islamic countries, though Israel itself must tread carefully so as to not damage relations with New Delhi.

Pakistani passports still have the disclaimer, "Valid in all countries, except Israel".