Jerusalem, Jan 19 (IANS) India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Israel and always offers a safe and secure home to the Jewish people, said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
“India attaches the highest importance to full development of wide-ranging ties with Israel,” she said on Monday as she met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the second day of her visit to Israel.
“Our bilateral cooperation has developed well in a number of areas over the past two decades. But the potential of our relationship is much more,” Sushma Swaraj, who is on her first visit to West Asia as external affairs minister, said.
Stating that she was looking forward to her meetings with the Israeli leadership, she said she hoped to “discuss the entire spectrum of our bilateral relationship”.
“I also hope to get an assessment of the situation in the region and explore areas where we can cooperate in addressing common challenges,” she said.
Welcoming the Indian minister, Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s foreign minister, said that India and Israel were intensifying cooperation in a number of fields.
“In the fields of science and technology, cyber, defence and agriculture, we want to do more,” he said.
He said that Sushma Swaraj’s visit has provided a special opportunity for the foreign ministries of both the countries to discuss various challenges and opportunities.
He said that though India and Israel shared very old civilisations.
“The future belongs to those who innovate. Israel and India are at the cutting edge of so many areas of innovation,” the Israeli prime minister said.
“By working together we can do a lot more for our peoples and for the world,” he said, adding that Israel admired and viewed India as a great friend.
Sushma Swaraj, who is being accompanied by the Secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, Anil Wadhwa, and a number of other senior officials of the ministry, then held delegation level talks with Netanyahu.
Following this, she called on Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
“All in a morning’s work. After meeting PM @netanyahu, EAM calls on @PresidentRuvi of Israel at the President’s House,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted.
Sushma Swaraj also held delegation-level talks with Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Yuval Steinitz and Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Ahead of the Indian minister’s visit, Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said at a media briefing in New Delhi that Israel and India would collaborate in the areas of agriculture and water management.
Stating that Israel had faced the problem of water scarcity, he said that his country would collaborate with the Indian private sector on this and was in close contact with India’s water resources and Ganga rejuvenation ministry.
He also said defence cooperation was “the central pillar of our relationship”.
He said Israeli defence manufacturing companies were “open and flexible” to the idea of ‘Make in India’.
Carmon said India-Israel defence ties have gone way beyond a buyer and seller relationship and now it was about joint research and development.
On Monday, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and former Israeli foreign minister and chair of the India-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group Tzipi Livni also called on Sushma Swaraj.
Later in the evening, addressing a community event, the visiting Indian minister said that India has always offered the Jewish people a safe and secure home.
“India has always offered the Jewish people a safe and secure home for many centuries,” Sushma Swaraj said while addressing the Indian community and the Friends of India.
She congratulated the Indian caregivers for performing commendable service away from their homes.
There are at least 80,000 Jews of Indian origin in Israel, most of whom are now Israeli passport holders, according to Indian embassy figures.
There are at least 10,000 Indian citizens in Israel, of whom at least 8,000 are care-givers while the others are diamond traders, IT professionals, students and unskilled workers.
The visiting Indian minister started the day by paying homage at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, located near Jerusalem.
Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Israel comes after the visit of President Pranab Mukherjee in October last year, the first ever by an Indian head of state.
On Sunday, Sushma Swaraj went to Ramallah on the first leg of her West Asian visit and held bilateral discussions with her Palestinian counterpart Riyad Al Maliki and called on President Mahmoud Abbas.