Sushma meets Netanyahu, boosts Indo-Israel ties

RSTV Bureau
Ramallah: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Ramallah on Sunday, Jan 17, 2016. Photo-PTI

Ramallah: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Ramallah on Sunday, Jan 17, 2016.
Photo-PTI

After a day long visit to Palestine on Sunday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj returned to Israel to meet the country’s top leaders. Swaraj held bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top cabinet ministers. She also called on President Reuven Rivlin.

“India attaches the highest importance to the full development of bilateral ties with Israel. Our bilateral cooperation has grown in a number of areas over the past two decades but the potential of our relations are much more,” said Swaraj when she addressed the press along with PM Netanyahu before their meeting.

“I hope to discuss the entire spectrum of our bilateral relationship,” Swaraj said. She also added that she hopes to get an assessment of the situation in the region and identify areas where the two countries can cooperate.

The two leaders discussed all bilateral matters including cooperation in the fields of science and technology, cyberspace, defence and agriculture.

Swaraj’s visit assumes significance in view of a possible visit by PM Netanyahu to India later this year. It is also reported that PM Modi will pay a return visit to Tel Aviv after Netanyahu’s visit.

At the press conference, PM Netanyahu welcome the Indian minister by saying, “I take special pleasure in welcoming you here and
sending my regards to my good friend and colleague Prime Minister Modi. The expression of this growing relationship has been in the visit of the (Indian) President, the first ever by an Indian Head of State.”

“India and Israel are at the cutting edge of so many innovations and by working together we can do a lot more for our people and the world,” Netanyahu added while praising India.

This is Swaraj’s maiden visit to the region as the External Affairs Minister.

Indo-Israeli relations have drastically improved since President Pranab Mukherjee visited the country three months ago. India has been continuously trying to expand its engagement in Israel, which also one of the largest supplier of military hardware to India.

Netanyahu has met PM Modi twice in the past year and a half. He had called PM Modi a “friend” and had also spoken of the “limitless” potential between India and Israel.

On Sunday, Swaraj had crossed over to the West Bank and visited Palestine where she held talks with her counterpart Riyad al-Maliki in Ramallah. Swaraj also called on President Mahmoud Abbas and held talks with him.

She reaffirmed India’s consistent support for the Palestinian cause, emphasising that there has been “absolutely no change in its policy in this regard”.

While inaugurating the India-Palestine Digital learning and Innovation centre at the Al Quds University here, Swaraj outlined three core tenets of India’s approach to Palestine – solidarity with Palestinian people, support to the Palestinian cause and support to Palestine’s nation building and capacity building efforts.

“The entire Indian political leadership remains steadfastly committed to these policies. We are working for closer political interaction and deeper economic and academic engagement with Palestine,” she said on Sunday.

(With inputs from PTI)