Israel-Palestinian tensions mirror India-Pakistan conflict

Centered around competing demands for the province of Kashmir, the skirmish between India and Pakistan has a number of parallels to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

•: In both cases, territorial demands are a central issue.

•: In both cases, the two sides have a long and bloody history.

•: And in both cases, there is no easy solution in sight.

Moreover, the disputes have been complicated by Islamic terrorism, which both India and Israel say is supported by their neighbor's government.

Just as Israel says it will not negotiate with the Palestinians until there is an end to attacks against Israelis, India says it will not sit idly by as terrorists launch attacks on India from Pakistan.

While progress toward resolving the dispute can be foiled by a terror attack, there are repeated vows to halt terrorism — such as those frequently voiced by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat — that are not followed up with substantive action.

Following the bloody attack on the Indian Parliament last December, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf promised to crack down on terrorists.

Musharraf made a gesture of shaking hands with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when the two met in Nepal last January — but Pakistani terrorist attacks continued.

Israel is confident the continued Palestinian terrorist attacks have Arafat's backing, and India is convinced that Musharraf does little to deter Pakistan-based terrorists.

Rather than fighting terrorism, Arafat repeatedly attempts to appease Arab terror groups, fearful that they may win the sympathy of the Palestinian population.

Similarly, Musharraf attempts to avoid alienating Islamic radical elements, even after supporting the United States war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Vajpayee seemed to have usurped Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's playbook on Arafat, saying recently that he'd "had enough of symbolic gestures from Pakistan" and expected "a halt to terrorist acts against India."

The result has been identical in both cases: Terrorist attacks have led to a halt in contacts between the parties, increasing the chances of further violence.

Vajpayee now views Musharraf much as Sharon views Arafat — as unwilling and unable to curb terrorism.

Like the Palestinians, the Pakistanis demand an international presence in Kashmir. Like Israel, India — which controls most of the province — won't hear of outside involvement.

Also like Israel, India demands that the West immediately halt economic aid to its rival.

While Sharon has called Arafat "irrelevant" and Vajpayee treats Musharraf as if he is irrelevant, the West tells India what it tells Israel about Arafat: Like it or not, he isn't irrelevant; he's your peace partner.

This week's cover of The Economist magazine carried the headline "Why the World Needs Pakistan's Dictator to Survive."

In both conflicts, world powers, particularly America, are trying hard to prevent further escalation — India and Pakistan are full partners in the nuclear club.

Israel, unlike India, has shown a willingness to make deep territorial concessions in exchange for peace, but there is no simple way to end or stall the conflict. This helps explain the growing strategic alliance between Israel and India, which has been compared to Israel's strong tie with Turkey.

India and Turkey are major Asian democracies determined to fight off Islamic militancy, making them perfect partners for Israel.

Israel has openly sided with India in its standoff against Pakistan. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said during a recent visit to India that "Israel is on the side of India in the struggle for peace and against terrorism in every possible way."

The alliance between the two countries is largely based on strong military ties — India is one of Israel's top military customers.

India hopes to approach Israeli prowess in counter-terrorism, night warfare and air surveillance.