The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee visits Yad Veshem with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during his historic first visit to Israel.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin received the President of the Republic of India, Pranab Mukherjee, on the latter’s first state visit to Israel. In his greeting to the Indian leader, Rivlin mentioned the problems that both countries face in the security arena, saying: “We are working together to protect the security of both nations from terrorism and fundamentalism.”
Mukherjee responded with a statement alluding to the current security situation in Israel, declaring that “India condemns any kind of terrorism, and we always hope for a non-violent solution to all the problems.”
The Indian leader spoke of the possibilities of collaboration between the two states, and the warm relations shared by two nations fighting terrorism: “India attaches great importance to its relations with Israel, which have progressed and evolved significantly in recent years. We cooperate and exchange knowledge in many fields including defense, agriculture, scientific research and development. We identify other areas with potential for cooperation. We will seize this opportunity to discuss the global challenges that both countries face today, including increased terrorist threat far, our shared concerns on global warming, and the immediate need to reform the infrastructure of the international organizations.”
The first visit ever to Israel by an Indian head of state was supposed to be a grand celebration of a significant tightening of diplomatic ties, but Mukherjee’s arrival in Jerusalem was overshadowed by a wave of violence and terror.
Mukherjee’s visit is a marked departure from New Delhi’s traditional standpoint. Israel and India have had 23 years of flourishing bilateral ties, but these have been mostly behind the scenes. New Delhi and Jerusalem enjoy close military, intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation, but have been generally shy of exhibiting the relationship.
Since Narenda Modi was elected as Indian prime minister, the relationship between India and Israel has been a whole different story. In the past year India abstained in three UN votes against Israel instead of voting against as it traditionally did, with Jerusalem hailing the significant diplomatic achievement.
This is just the beginning of what could be a decisive year for Jerusalem and New Delhi, as they are set to hold a joint military exercise in the near future, and a planned visit by Modi, for which Mukherjee’s visit is the grand rehearsal.
Mukhergee arrived at the Israeli parliament after making pro-Palestinian remarks on the first two legs of his Mideast visit, in an attempt to reassure Palestinians they have not lost their ally. When addressing Israeli lawmakers, he didn’t even touch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During his visit to Jordan on Sunday, Mukherjee said that India’s support for the Palestinian cause is unwavering. In a speech at the University of Jordan, he clarified that “India supports a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognized borders.”
He said that “Our bilateral relations with Israel are independent of our relations with Palestine.”
Tal Shalev contributed to this report
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