“There has been intelligence cooperation between Israel and India over the years and these endeavours have been mutually beneficial.”
This statement from a former Mossad boss does not surprise us in India, especially in the aftermath of Pegasus snoopgate. However, the “beneficial” bit here may be debatable.
Uzi Arad, top Mossad spy and former NSA to Benjamin Netanyahu, was in India recently for a conference. Arad, a noted foreign affairs and security expert, has been playing an important role in the advancement of Israel's relations with Euro-Atlantic community. The Quint spoke with him on the sidelines of Synergia Conclave, a biennial security convention organised by Synergia Foundation in Bangalore.
“A spy should never boast.” Arad prefers calling his fraternity the “least bad” instead of the “best”.
Known for his plainspeak, Arad shared his thoughts on India-Israel relationship, espionage, Pakistan, and the current handling of the Kashmir situation by the Indian government. Below is an excerpt from this exclusive interview:
Arad begins by stating upfront, “India is big, and it is great. Israel is small”. He states that his country is conscious of this difference and realises the potential of India on a global scale. However, when it comes to quality size does not matter, he adds. This largely explains the balance of trade between the two countries. India is one of the biggest buyers of Israel’s defence technology and, of late, spyware.
Talking of spying, the former Director of Research at Mossad confirms that India and Israel have an old and strong intelligence partnership. “I cannot go into details but let me tell you that the relationship has been mutually beneficial.” Arad was part of Israeli delegations that worked closely with Indian agencies during his active years in espionage.
Making of a Mossad Spy
While Mossad spies have acquired an almost mythical status in Indian imagination, thanks to pulp fiction and spy cinema, Arad has high words of praise for his Indian counterparts. “I have had the privilege of working with my Indian counterparts who have shown high degree of professionalism.” He shares in a lighter vein that Bollywood does not depict the real spy world. “I grew on Indian films, let me put in a word of caution!”
On being asked what makes Israeli spy agency one of the best in the world, Arad starts with a lesson on humility. “A spy should never boast.” He prefers calling his fraternity the “least bad” instead of the “best”. And what makes them “least bad”?
Arad’s answer is singularly predictable and honest. Since Israel is surrounded with adversaries that mean the country harm even today, an Israeli spy has a deep sense of purpose. “Patriotism is a driving force that makes an Israeli spy sacrifice a lot more than others.”
India, Pakistan and Kashmir
“Coming from a country engaged in long drawn regional conflicts I don’t want to see India and Pakistan go to war,” says Arad. He adds that Pakistan has been responsible for creating regional problems for Israel. “Pakistan is a problem.” Arad minces no words in declaring Pakistan a proliferator of nuclear know-how. However, he is hopeful that the country may like to behave a little more responsibly now.
On Kashmir, Arad feels that India’s diplomatic handling has been good, thanks to a seasoned and talented foreign affairs ministry. Though, he has a small yet useful advice for India: do not shy from owning mistakes. “Self-criticism is a mark of high quality.”
Israeli Tourists in India
Arad, who had a busy itinerary of his own, shared why India is a favourite destination amongst his compatriots. Apart from feeling welcome in India, relative inexpensiveness of an Indian holiday is big attraction for youngsters. He shared that his own daughters have been planning a trip to India.
Israel is one of the countries that has compulsory military service for all able bodied citizens. After a strained deployment, Israelis find India to be a good pace to ‘unwind’. India’s geographic and demographic diversity allows them a wide range of experiences to choose from.
Arad says that the living chapter of Jewish history is also part of the charm India has for people like him who are interested in world events and history.