Krishna's visit to Israel marks new high in bilateral ties

Krishna's visit to Israel marks new high in bilateral ties

Many special measures were taken by the host country to make "the important guest feel the warmth in the relationship felt by Israelis", which included massive changes in schedules at the highest levels to accord the kind of hospitality due to a "special friend", political sources here said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "went out of the way" to arrange a breakfast meeting with Krishna, the first Indian Foreign Minister to visit Tel Aviv in over a decade, spending close to two hours with him and "surprised everyone" by coming all the way to down to see him off when his car left the PMO.

Host Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman waited outside for several minutes to personally receive and accompany his Indian counterpart to his office.

On top of all that the Israeli President reserved the most flattering of comments for India dubbing it the "greatest democracy on earth", and even backed its permanent membership in an extended UN Security Council, which may not necessarily be the official position of his country given "India's unwavering support for the Palestinian cause".
"For us India is first of all a culture. Then it is for us the greatest democracy on earth and then the unbelievable achievement of overcoming poverty without becoming poor in freedom," the Nobel laureate Israeli President said.

Expressing his admiration for India's founding father, Peres called Mahatma Gandhi a "prophet" and former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru a "king".

"India was fortunate that it had two great and unforgettable leaders - one was a prophet and the other one was a king. The combination of Gandhi and Nehru is the most unusual," he noted.

Israel's octogenarian statesman has consistently backed India's membership at UNSC emphasising it during meetings with every single Indian delegation he has met since taking oath.

However, no visible display of any kind of disappointment at India's voting pattern at the UN could be seen during the two days of interaction between Krishna's delegation and Israeli leadership, something that political sources here described as "growing faith in each other as partners...    and reaching new levels of maturity in relations".

This could be discerned also in responses by the two sides every time questions related to differences were raised.Reacting to Pakistan's former President Gen Pervez Musharraf's recent remarks that Islamabad should establish ties with Israel to counter India on Kashmir, something the ousted Pakistani leader actually pursued when in office, Krishna said that it is upto Tel Aviv to decide on the issue and New Delhi will not come on the way.

"It is between Israel and Pakistan to decide what kind of relationship they want to establish, as much as it is between Israel and India to decide what kind of relationship we want to establish", the Indian foreign minister said.

"We will certainly not come in the way of Israel having its relationship with any other country because each relationship stand ultimately on the values on which we stand for", he stressed.

On another major irritant in Indo-Israel relations, Iran's nuclear programme, Krishna was quite candid in presenting India's position.

"With reference to Iran, we have taken a very consistent position. We respect the right of every nation to pursue its nuclear energy ambitions to its logical level. Just as India has exercised the option of resorting to nuclear energy in order to meet its growing energy demands, so the other nations are also entitled to develop that," he said.

"But the IAEA provides the basic framework for addressing technical issues related to any nuclear programme. India on every occasion at IAEA meetings has taken a consistent stance... and that stand is that every country has that right but that right is subject to the evaluators set up by agency. And we fully subscribe to that principle", Krishna asserted.

Lieberman in response described the relations as "excellent" calling upon to consolidate the gains of the last two decades and set the agenda for the next two decades, upgrading the level of engagement, also political.

The most unusual of remarks from the Indian minister however could be heard on fight against terror which he described a common problem to both the countries for which they need to have a joint strategy to "checkmate" the menace and finally "eradicate" it.
The two countries have a Joint Working Group on counter- terrorism that regularly holds meetings but such strong statements from the Indian side has at best been elusive.
The two sides specially focused on discussions as to how to promote bilateral trade where they mutually see a huge potential for growth.

The two sides expressed confidence that once the Free Trade Agreement is signed later this year it will have a multiplier effect on increasing the volume of trade between the two countries.

Israel has also extended its hand to Indian companies to participate in joint ventures to explore the exploitation of huge gas reserves they have traced in Tamar and Leviathan fields.