Skip to comments.Muslims protest in Mumbai (Bombay, India) against visit by PM (Ariel Sharon of Israel)
Posted on 09/05/2003 1:23:01 PM PDT by anotherview
Last Update: 05/09/2003 21:27
Muslims protest in Mumbai against visit by PM
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, and agencies
Indian Moslems in the western city of Bombay gathered in large numbers after Friday prayers to protest against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit next week.
Children held white banners with red letters in English and Urdu that said, "Sharon: Enemy of the people", "Sharon should be hanged", as they marched on crowded Mohammed Ali Street, one of the city's Moslem enclaves.
Scores gathered around and clapped as the protestors hanged an effigy of Sharon.
Sharon leaves for India on Monday, for the first visit of an Israeli premier to the subcontinent since the two countries established formal diplomatic ties 11 years ago. During his five-day visit, Sharon will meet with government leaders, prominent members of the business community and representatives of the Indian Jewish community. He will also try to promote several major economic and security deals between Israeli concerns and the Indian government.
The Indian military hopes the trip will boost defense ties. It has raised expectations of a deal worth more than $1 billion in which India will buy Israeli Phalcon airborne radars.
But Muslim leaders are already expressing misgivings.
Sharon, the guest of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will be in India on September 11, a highly symbolic anniversary for both countries which see themselves, alongside the United States, as victims of terrorism.
"It is very unfortunate that the BJP government is joining the U.S. and Israel to create an anti-Islamic climate," said S.M.N. Rahman Barkati, chief cleric at the Tipu Sultan mosque in the eastern city of Calcutta.
Mostly Hindu, but officially secular, India established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, while remaining careful to retain its traditional friends in the Arab world.
Under the BJP the relationship has blossomed, driven partly by the Hindu nationalist party's desire to improve ties with Washington and build a common front against Islamic militancy.
India blames its Islamic neighbor, Pakistan, for sponsoring Muslim militant attacks again Indian targets in disputed Kashmir and elsewhere, charges that Islamabad denies.
But analysts caution against oversimplifying the growing ties between the Jewish and Hindu states as part of a "clash of civilizations" with the Islamic world. "There are mixed motives at play here and, while the civilizational element is there, it is by no means the only driver," says Varun Sahni, international politics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The relationship between Israel and India has developed "at an unprecedented rate" in many different areas over the past decade, said government sources in Jerusalem. According to figures published by the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $1.3 billion, and in the first six months of 2003 stood at $750 million. Approximately 30,000 Israeli tourists visit India each year.
Most important for India is to gain access to sophisticated military hardware to strengthen its hand against Pakistan.
The Indian defense establishment has become, over recent years, the main client for Israel's security industries. The two countries are currently involved in negotiations over the sale of the Israel Aircraft Industries' Phalcon airborne reconnaissance system to the Indian Air Force. The Phalcon can detect cruise missiles, low-flying aircraft and other intrusions much more quickly than ground-based radars. It can also be used for border surveillance. The deal, said to be worth over $1 billion, was recently given a stamp of approval by the U.S. administration.
The purchase of Phalcons - similar to the U.S. Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) - would bring large parts of nuclear-armed Pakistan under Indian surveillance.
India is also highly interested in purchasing additional Barak vertically-launched surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, which are made jointly by IAI and Rafael, the Israel Armament Development Authority.
The Indians are expected to tell Sharon of their concerns regarding reports of a rapprochement between Israel and Pakistan, India's Muslim neighbor to the north, and its main source of security worries. According to government officials in Jerusalem, there has been no progress in relations between Israel and Pakistan, beyond declarative statements by leaders of both countries. Indian security experts say both India and Israel are also swapping intelligence on curbing Muslim militants.
Israel hopes to persuade India to change its voting pattern in the United Nations on resolutions relating to the Middle East, where New Delhi has traditionally been a supporter of the Arab cause. Sources in the Foreign Ministry believe that if India does indeed change the way it votes, other Asian countries will follow suit.
Although mostly Hindu, India has one of the world's biggest Muslim populations, at some 130 million people.
Sharon, who holds talks in New Delhi on Tuesday and Wednesday, is expected to spend the September 11 anniversary in India's financial capital Bombay, where 52 people died last month in twin car bombings blamed on Muslim radicals.
Gee. They sound like nice little children - NOT!
Only much better. The AWACs basic design is over 30 years old. That's like the dark ages as far as computer and signal processing technology goes. (And maybe in other ways as well!) While the AWACS has been upgraded, it's still got what the crews refer to as their "steam powered computer", an IBM 4-Pi, so called because it's achitecture is that of two IBM 360s, an ancient mainframe that this old cat learned his first programing language on.