Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Musharraf and Barak Meet By "Chance"

Right after India launched an Israeli spy satellite into orbit, Pakistan's President Musharraf met "by chance" in Paris with Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The Associated Press of Pakistan reported that the two were staying in the same hotel and ran into each other in the lobby. Evidently, Musharraf was on his way out of the hotel and Barak on his way in, and the latter introduced himself. The two shook hands and went their ways according to APP; but Israel's Haaretz reported that there was a later meeting of about an hour, at which the terrorist threat to Pakistan and the security of its nuclear weapons was discussed.

Pakistan does not have diplomatic relations with Israel because of its need to preserve solidarity with the oil-rich Arab nations on which it has depended for financial and political support. However, over the last few years, as Indo-Israeli relations have got ever closer and extended to the sharing of military technology and intelligence, Pakistan has felt the need to change its position. There have been earlier reports of diplomatic meetings, routinely denied, but this one seems to be different; a government spokesman admitted the meeting in the lobby.

Whether the "chance" meeting was occasioned by Pakistan's concerns at having an Israeli satellite peering down on it, or if it was Israeli interest in finding out why Pakistan was rattling its nukes (see 1/23 post: Is Push Coming to Shove on Pakistani Nukes), it was definitely not routine.

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