NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 1: Israel has raised its concern over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme and its ramifications on an already-volatile region at the meeting of the Indo-Israeli joint working group on counter-terrorism.
While not spelling out the role it hopes India can play, sources said, Israel was keen that India displayed greater awareness on how a possible possession of WMDs by Iran could destabilise West Asia.
According to Embassy sources, the two sides freely exchanged views on the developing threat of WMDs possibly falling into hands of terrorist organisations. The Israeli delegation, led by Deputy Director General, Strategic Affairs, Jeremy Issacharoff, gave an account of weapons in the hands of terrorist organisations like the Hizbollah, which Tel Aviv feels is receiving complete assistance from Iran.
According to Tel Aviv, Hizbollah has nearly 12,000 rockets that have a range between 43 and 75 km, and apparently efforts are on to upgrade them so as to increase their range. This, sources said, is seen by Israel as a direct threat as most of its northern areas are targets. And when this is combined with Iran's spree of missile tests, the situation becomes more delicate.
The Israeli delegation was of the view that since it had on each occasion recognized India's security concerns, and the threat posed by state-sponsored terrorism, New Delhi too should acknowledge and contribute to efforts that may help stabilize the situation in West Asia. Both countries shared their perspectives on the issue.
Being the first meeting of the JWG after the UPA government took over, embassy sources said the delegation did not sense any change in New Delhi's approach since it last met at Jerusalem in March. Both sides agreed to step up cooperation in multilateral forums and broaden the scope of interaction in the days ahead.
The JWG meeting was preceded by Foreign Office consultations last week. And less than a week later, Israel's former Prime Minister and now Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with Vice-Premier and Minister of Industries, Trade, Employment and Communications Ehud Olmert will be here on a three-day visit from December 6.
The two countries have registered more than 40 pc increase in bilateral trade. The Olmert-Netanyahu mission will seek to expand trade ties with focus on improving cooperation in setting up infrastructure for research and development. Israel is also keen that India opens its doors for Israeli industry in communications, agriculture and water projects.
A delegation of some 70 businessmen, including those from defence-related industries, will be accompanying the mission which will travel to Mumbai and Bangalore apart from holding meetings in New Delhi. It may be noted that while the invitation for a visit by the Israeli Vice-Premier was handed over by former Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley when he visited Israel in January, this was recently renewed by Minister Kamal Nath.