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When Shimon Peres suggest demographic change in Indian-occupied Kashmir

The Israeli leader had a thing for ethnic cleansing.

Azad Essa

In mid-May 1993, around 16 month after India normalised ties with Israel, Shimon Peres, the-then Israeli foreign minister traveled on an official state visit to Delhi.

It was the first official visit by an Israeli leader to India.

Of course, two Israeli foreign ministers had visited India secretly – Moshe Sharett in 1956 and in Moshe Dayan in 1977/8.

When Peres arrived in 1993, he was welcomed warmly by the media, by politicians, and by commentators who were convinced that stronger ties with Israel would help India grow closer to the US and become prosperous within the global economy.

In fact, the project of Indian economic liberalization was seen as interminably linked with better ties with the Jewish State.

Naturally, when normalization took place in 1992, there was an enthusiasm for working closer with Israel, even if the government still tried to pretend it was committed to Palestine.

During his visit, Peres signed six agreements on bilateral cooperation in economic, tourism, aviation, science, technology and culture.

Defense deals were also high on the agenda, but officials remained tight -lipped about it.

“We have been waiting for this moment for 40 years,” Peres said.

During his visit, Peres met with the Congress-led government as well as the opposition party – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – who sang his praises throughout.

Here is the NYT’s coverage of the visit (May 18, 1993)

Peres’ visit was clearly a success.

But in the days that followed, a private conversation between Peres and LK Advani, the BJP leader, was leaked to the press.

It was reported that Peres had suggested to Advani that the only way to fix the Kashmir problem was through the implementation of demographic change in the Valley.

In other words, flooding the Muslim-majority region with Indian Hindus.

In his remarks, it was noted that Peres brought up Israel’s policy of bringing Jewish settlers into the occupied West Bank.

At the time, the armed insurgency against Indian occupation was in full flight and Delhi was ramping up its military presence in the region.

Here is a report from The Hindu (May 27, 1993)

In the story, it is alleged that Peres also suggested that India abrogate Article 370.

Here is another article from The Hindu (May 31, 1993)

In this article, the writer notes that the BJP has been saying that “ex-servicemen should be settled in the valley and in other states that border Pakistan”.

”The BJP’s suggestion that India could invite Israel to help it fight terrorism in the valley has also also attracted highly critical remarks from other parties,” the writer added.

Here’s another piece by Sabina Sehgal in The Times of India (June 1, 1993).

Writing about the incident some days later in Frontline Magazine (June 18, 1993), Valsan Cherian notes that Peres was the “first important foreign leader” to meet the BJP leader after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

In other words it was Peres that showed respect to Advani and the BJP when international discourse was pitted against them following the demolition of Babri Masjid.

By implication, it was Peres who helped bring the BJP out of the shadows in the international arena.

I am going to quote passages of Cherian’s remarkable story at length:

”As expected, the Israelis gave full backing to India’s position on Kashmir emphasising that the Shimla Agreement was the sole mechanism to settle disputes with Pakistan,” Cherian wrote.

He was instrumental in accelerating resettlement in the Occupied Territories to find a solution to what Israelis call the ‘Demographic Problem’.”

Peres no doubt is one of the most knowledgeable men on that particular
topic, as Israel had almost perfected the art of ‘ethnic cleansing’ after the
Second World War. The report said Peres had given the example of the
West Bank,” Cherian wrote.

Advani denied the report the next day stating that the topic had not cropped up in his 40-minute-long discussion with the Foreign Minister.
When this writer contacted the party spokesman, K. R. Malkani, he also vehemently denied the report and said the topic was never broached. Anyway, the timing of the report, coming as it did the day after Peres left, raised a storm.

However, media attention was focussed on the security dimensions of the budding Indo-Israeli links. Both countries issued a joint statement calling upon developed nations to address themselves seriously to the dangers posed by international terrorism ‘with determination’.”

This was back in 1993.

Two years later, India started buying drones from Israel.

Delhi has since become the largest purchaser of Israeli weapons, accounting to around 46% all weapons sold by Israel.

India has also imported Israeli sensors to the de facto border regions with Pakistan in Indian occupied Kashmir. The Indian forces also carry Israeli semi-automatic weapons in the valley as well.

But more than weapons, India has imported Israeli methods.

As it turns out, in August 2019, India revoked Article 370 and Article 35A, effectively ending Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status. India also placed Kashmir on lockdown for months. All communications were cut, a curfew was put into place; politicians, activists and journalists were rounded up and arrested or placed under house arrest.

The abrogation of Article 370/Article 35A meant that Indians and non-Kashmiris could now become permanent residents in the valley and buy up land.

Kashmiris have repeatedly warned that the plan is exercise demographic change in the valley and therefore end the dispute.

In November 2019, a senior Indian diplomat said in NY called for “the Israeli model” in Indian occupied Kashmir.

In November 2022, India invited Israeli officials to Kashmir to set up Centers of Excellent (COEs) in the valley. Kashmiri scholars said it appeared that Israel would be helping to replace the indigenous culture and geography with a reimagined environment, just as Israelis have done in the occupied West Bank.

“The move directly affects the demography of the region and borrows from Israeli paradigms of control in the occupied territories,” BDS-India’s spokesperson told me.

With American universities ablaze with protest and possibility, Militarists and Vegetarians has had to take a bit of a backseat over the past several weeks. I hope to be back with more content and stories.

FYI: When Peres died in 2016, Indian PM Narendra Modi had this to say about him:

“In former President Shimon Peres, we lost a key world leader and a friend of India. Pained by his demise. Our condolences to people of Israel.”

Not far behind, Congress president Sonia Gandhi would go on to describe him as a “pacifist”.

“Peres will be remembered as a steadfast pacifist and hopeful believer in peace and coexistence,” she said in a statement.

But who was Peres?

Peres was a pioneer of illegal settlements. It was Peres who offered the South African apartheid government nuclear warheads. This is the same Peres who had suggested demographic change in Kashmir.

Azad Essa