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India, Israel vow to augment ties, jointly confront terrorism

January 10, 2012 21:47 IST

India and Israel on Tuesday vowed to upgrade their relations in all fields and work out a joint strategy to "checkmate" terrorism, while deciding on a roadmap to elevate cooperation in multiple areas like defence, agriculture, trade and hi-tech over the next two decades.

Setting the ball rolling, Krishna, who is the first Indian foreign minister to visit Israel in over a decade, called Israel a "natural ally" in all frontiers of science during his over one and half hour breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, a rare gesture accorded to only dignitaries from countries sharing special relations with Israel.

After his meeting with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, Krishna termed his visit as "excellent and productive".

"During our meeting we reviewed all areas of cooperation in our bilateral relations -- political, economic, scientific and cultural," he said.

Krishna said India and Israel, who on Tuesday signed two treaties -- one on extradition and the other on transfer of sentenced persons -- face the common problem of terrorism.

"So I think we will have to work out a strategy as to how we address ourselves the scourge of international terrorism which has become the curse for the entire humanity.

"I think are effort should be to checkmate it and ultimately eradicate terror from the face of the earth," Krishna said.

The minister, who held a series of meetings with top Israeli leadership, including President Shimon Peres, during his visit starting Monday, said "India is also keen to have Israel as a partner in several other sectors in which innovation and cutting edge technologies are essential for our continued growth".

These sectors include water management, bio-technology, telecom, hi-tech industries, homeland security and several others, he emphasised.

While the two sides discussed a number of bilateral and regional issues, both Krishna and officials said the focus was about setting the agenda for the next two decades.

"The principal focus was on future. How we should move this relationship in future," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told PTI.

Asked about where he sees relations with India going, Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman said, "Our relations are excellent. What we see is a very positive tendency. We enjoy cooperation at many levels and I really hope that we would accomplish in the next five years more growth in all fields, including political level.

"We have had positive engagement during the first twenty years and now want to further upgrade it".

Liberman added, "What is really the most important thing is the determination and intention of both sides to deepen our bilateral relations in all fields".

He said India has become one of the most popular destinations for young Israeli generation and "of course cooperation in the field of agriculture, water management and homeland security has become more efficient".

Krishna pointed out that Indian economy provides immense potential and opportunity for the application of Israeli research as well as for Israeli investment.

Krishna said a Free Trade Agreement was presently under negotiations and "we hope to finalise it soon".

"Several other innovative ideas of promoting financial and technologic cooperation are also being explored. We are also keen to further enhance tourism from Israel to India and to intensify cultural exchanges and thus increase mutual understanding and goodwill," he said.

Though diplomatic relations between Israel and India were set up only 20 years back, both sides have seen a steep increase in cooperation in all fields especially in trade and defence.

The bilateral trade and economic relations have progressed rapidly in recent years.

From a mere $200 million in 1992, the bilateral trade with Israel was expected to reach a $5 billion by last year-end. The figure does not include defence purchases.

Israel has also emerged as the second biggest defence supplier to New Delhi after Russia.

From a buyer-seller relationship, both India and Israel are now trying to branch out to joint research and development initiatives.

"Both sides are looking at going beyond buyer-seller relations. We are looking at joint investments not just in production but also research, I-T and bio-technology," an official source said giving an insight into the talks that Krishna held with Israeli leadership.

Another area of discussion included energy as both the countries are trying to cooperate in renewable energy as well as wind energy. "The increasing idea is to do things together," the source said.

Asked if increasing relations with Israel would affect ties with certain other countries that are not at good terms with Tel Aviv, a source said, "our relations with countries are based on our bilateral interest. A relation with a country does not affect our relations with any other country. We have states positions on world issues".

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