September 3, 2005


A handshake stirs Muslim world (Salman Masood, 9/03/05, International Herald Tribune)

ISLAMABAD The extraordinary encounter in Istanbul between Khurshid Kasuri, the Pakistani foreign minister, and his Israeli counterpart, Silvan Shalom, produced a handshake across two worlds that is likely to have a profound impact here and in other Muslim societies.

While covert contacts between Israel and Pakistan date to the late 1940s, the meeting Thursday in Istanbul was a stark illustration both of Israel's desire to open contacts with more Muslim countries and of Pakistan's strategy, under President Pervez Musharraf, of raising its global profile, above all with the United States.

Since abandoning the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Musharraf has made several decisions unpopular with extremists but welcomed by more moderate, liberal voices in Pakistan that might otherwise be more critical of this military leader's grip on civilian power. [...]

[M]usharraf surely recognizes that it is impossible to become a strong ally of the United States without opening a channel to Israel. He had already sparked controversy - and in a sense set the stage for the Istanbul meeting - by agreeing to address the American Jewish Congress during his visit to America in September.

For its part, Israel hailed the meeting of the two foreign ministers as "historic and a huge breakthrough." Masood, the retired general, noted that Israel "recognizes Pakistan as an important Muslim country because of its close ties with Muslim countries, both conservative and moderate. Friendly relations with Pakistan can open channels as it can act as a bridge" - perhaps even to Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In many ways, Islamic Pakistan and Jewish Israel resemble each other - despite Pakistan's political and economic instability. Both countries are based on ideology, with religion as the foundation of their nationhood. Although Israel does not state this openly, both have nuclear weapons. Both are security-driven. Both grapple with threats from neighbors who are reluctant or unwilling to accept them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 3, 2005 8:33 AM

Re: Last paragraph above, there's a glaring omission of another similarity that I never see in the media.

Is anyone remembering that Pakistan is similar to Israel in that it was carved out of the larger entity of India so Indian Muslims could have a country to call their own, just as Israel was carved out of the larger entity of Palestine so Jews could have a country to call their own.

Not an exact analogy, but close enough for government work.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 3, 2005 8:50 AM

And the last time anyone threatened to push the Pakistanis into the sea was....? (And the time before that?)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 4, 2005 2:52 AM

The Indians do regularly.

Posted by: oj at September 4, 2005 10:07 AM