President reaches Israel, wraps up Palestine visit

RSTV Bureau

President-Pranab-MukherjeePresident Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Israel on Tuesday afternoon after wrapping up his visit to Palestine. He will be in Israel for a 3-day state visit, the first by any Indian Head of State.

President Mukherjee’s visit is being seen as a “political milestone” in the growing relationship between India and Israel. He has a packed schedule during his 3-day stay in the West Asian country. On Wednesday the President is expected to address Israel’s Parliament, Knesset. This, many say, is a rare honor for a visiting dignitary.

A banquet by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and a lunch with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also on the schedule. Besides this, the President will be conferred an honorary degree by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Rivlin has described President Mukherjee’s visit as a “historic political milestone”. Rivlin also told PTI that the visit reflected the continued strengthening of the relations between the two countries.

The talks between Mukerjee and Rivlin are likely to discuss issues like terrorism and cooperation in various areas.

The visit would deepen bilateral friendship in economic, scientific, medical, agricultural and other fields, the Israeli President said.

In the next three days, a number of MoUs are expected to be signed between India and Israel. The MoUs are likely to be in the field of renewable energy, avoiding double taxation, culture exchange programme and education.

“Israel has the expertise in dealing with many challenges of the 21st century which includes science, information and technology and counter terrorism and India has manpower,” Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs had told a media briefing in Delhi last week ahead of the President’s visit.

India and Israel established a diplomatic relationship in 1992 and since then relations have evolved into a multi-dimensional partnership.

Both countries have a wide range of bilateral areas of cooperation. These include cooperation in agriculture, science and technology and education. President Mukherjee’s visit looks to cement the bond of cooperation and enhance mutual understanding between the two countries.

Meanwhile, during his overnight stay in Palestine, President Mukherjee spoke India’s stand on the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel.

“India shares the perception that the Palestinian issue is at the centre of Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace and stability in the region is in India’s interest,” President Mukherjee said spelling out India’s policy vis-à-vis the two fighting neighbours.

He also clarified that India has always promoted the Palestinian cause. He cited the example of India’s backing of several UN resolutions on Palestine to show its solidarity with the Palestinian people.

“First, closer political interaction; Second, deeper economic engagement and academic collaboration; Third, wider cultural contacts and people-to-people exchanges,” are the three principal pillars on which India’s partnership with Palestine can be framed, said President Mukherjee on Monday.

He also congratulated the people of Palestine on the momentous unfurling of their national flag at the United Nations for the first time on September 30, 2015.

In Palestine, President Mukherjee also pitched for the BJP led government’s ‘Make in India’ scheme and said that Palestinians were welcome to manufacture in India.

(With inputs from PTI)