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Israel reminder on Kargil debt

New Delhi, Sept. 11: Israel recalled favours to India in Delhi’s time of need during the Kargil war, asked for India’s participation in a submarine development programme and sought repeated assurance that information on technology being supplied will not be leaked out, in wide-ranging talks that the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had with defence minister George Fernandes and an Israeli defence delegation had with its counterparts here.

Fernandes met Sharon for a one-on-one last evening, shortly before the Israeli Prime Minister cut short his visit and returned after suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

India owes Israel a debt of gratitude for standing by it during the Kargil war of 1999. “During the Kargil war, they stripped their own army of weapons and had them flown across to aid us,” defence ministry sources said. “And after the December 13 Parliament attack, they wanted to assist us again. These illustrate the kind of relations that India and Israel have built over the course of the last few years.”

Fernandes’ talks with Sharon were not “country-centric” but Pakistan figured largely in the discussion. In the talks in the ministry, the Israeli team was led by Major General Amos Yaron, director-general in the Isreali defence minstry.

The sources said Israel was keen to supply India electronic fencing, sensors and gadgetry that could be put on the borders not only in Kashmir but also in the eastern sector (along Bangladesh) “where a lot of infiltration takes place even if it is not terrorist-related”.

The proposal to participate in a submarine development programme as a “junior partner”, they said, was independent of other projects such as the acquisition of Scorpene submarines from France and the indigenous Project 75. The Israeli project was on a conventional submarine. “It has only been floated. Nothing concrete has emerged out of their proposal as yet,” a source said.

The Israelis asked repeatedly for assurance on secrecy in technology. Last year, the sources said, the Iranian President and defence minister had visited Delhi. “The fear was expressed yesterday — and not for the first time — that information should not leak out. The defence minister assured the Israeli delegation that there was no way that there could be a leakage.” Israel believes Iran sponsors Hezbollah militants.

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