ERUSALEM: Despite posturing of strong ties with the Arab world, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not hesitate to reach out to Israel when the situation demanded.
According to documents in the Israeli archives in Jerusalem accessed by The Hindu newspaper recently, at the peak of the 1962 India-China war, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion wrote to Nehru expressing Israel’s “fullest sympathy and understanding”, and provided weapons to the Indian forces.
The Nehru-Ben Gurion exchanges indicate that India and Israel, maintained contacts at the highest possible level much before formal ties were established in January 1992.
A note from the same collection from 1968 reveals that India had sourced Israeli weapons during the war with China. To hide the arms supply from its Arab friends, India had requested Israel to deliver the weapons in ships that did not fly the Israeli flags.
However, Ben Gurion had put his foot down saying, “No flag. No weapons.” The weapons were eventually supplied in Israeli ships flying the Jewish state’s flag.
The archives reveal that Israel remained in close touch with not just Nehru but also other members of the Nehruvian regime, including India’s then ambassador to the United States B.K. Nehru, who courted the Jewish lobby in Washington to facilitate essential discussion between two sides.
B.K. Nehru wrote to Congressman Emanuel Celler on September 3, 1963, conveying that India was in favour of people-to-people contacts between the two sides.
He assured that New Delhi had not prevented its citizens from travelling to Israel and is open to Israeli travellers.
“We have long recognised Israel as an independent, sovereign state and our relation with that country have always been harmonious and friendly,” said the envoy who had a Jewish connection through his wife Fori.