New Delhi: Friendship between India and Israel is at work “day in, day out” and is not a relationship “we should be hiding”, said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as he pledged full support to India in fighting terrorism.
Rivlin arrived on Monday on an six-day visit to India, the first by any Israeli president in nearly two decades.
In a wide ranging interview to Press Trust of India, the Israeli president acknowledged differences with India on the Palestinian issue but spoke warmly about the growing Indo-Israeli ties as the two countries prepare to celebrate 25 years of establishment of full diplomatic ties between them next year.
Pledging full support to India in fighting terrorism, Rivlin said his country was proud to “stand with India in its defence of the values of democracy”. “Terror is terror is terror, whoever carries it out and whoever are its victims. And we all have the duty to condemn in our words, and fight with our deeds against this terrible evil,” asserted the president, whose country is one of the biggest suppliers of defence equipment to India and is cooperating with it in a major way in dealing with terrorism.
Answering a question on “murmurs” in Israel that India keeps under wraps their relationship because of close ties with the Arab world and domestic political considerations, Rivlin said, “Israel is proud of our friendship with India and I believe that India is proud of its friendship with Israel. Again, this is not just a friendship of leaders and governments. It is a friendship between people in all walks of life, in all fields of study, in all areas of trade. This is not a friendship we should be hiding. This is a friendship that we see at work day in, day out, at the very forefront of building a better world for Israelis, for Indians, and for all peoples,” he said.
In reply to a question on India’s continued support for an independent Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital, Rivlin said, “Friends may not always see eye to eye on everything, and as friends we can agree to disagree with respect and understanding. Israel understands and indeed shares India’s desire to see a just and lasting solution to the conflict between us and the Palestinians. But no solution that may ever be found has a chance of success lest we work now to build confidence between peoples,” the president said, and asserted that Israel and Palestine need to work towards “direct negotiations”.
Rivlin, who is accompanied by a strong delegation of businessmen, will hold comprehensive talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday on key bilateral and regional issues. On the long-pending free trade agreement (FTA), negotiations for which were launched nearly five years ago between India and Israel, Rivlin said it is a “tool” that can have huge impact and boost the partnership.
As the two sides build and cultivate the growing partnership, there is a need to seek ways to help business sectors to work together in an inviting environment, Rivlin said. “We need to supply them with the tools that will ease their way and will provide them incentives. An FTA is a tool that can have a huge impact and boost the partnership,” he said.
“Both Israel’s ambassador in India, and India’s new ambassador to Israel are playing an important role in this, which is a matter in progress and I hope we can see it signed in the near future,” the president added.
He also asserted that his visit was a chance not only to reaffirm Israel’s commitment to continue building on all that has been achieved in the past 25 years of diplomatic relations, but to look at ways the two countries can work together to stretch even further the boundaries of innovation and imagination.
“Importantly, this visit will focus on three areas of this cooperation, namely agriculture, water and education. These three areas in particular highlight what our two great nations are engaged in—sowing the seeds for the future,” he added.
During his meeting with Modi, Rivlin will reiterate his country’s invitation to Prime Minister Modi.