(January 20, 2016 / JNS) By Bradley Martin/JNS.org
Almost three months after the landmark visit of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj this week followed suit with a two-day visit to Israel amid increasingly warm ties between the two countries.
“I am very happy to be here in Israel. I served as the chairman of the India-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group for three years, during which I also had the pleasure of visiting Israel. I am a personal advocate of strong ties between India and Israel, so I am very happy to see that our relations are progressing so well in all our fields of engagement,” said Swaraj.
Swaraj advocated for closer civil, economic, and technological exchanges between the peoples of Israel and India. From student collaboration on scientific research to the building of start-ups, she has remarked that the two countries have come a long way since full diplomatic ties were established in 1992.
“We have developed close cooperation in critical areas such as agriculture and defense. Indian farmers and soldiers know Israel well because of its innovative technologies,” Swaraj said.
Swaraj also took the opportunity to laud the Indian Jewish community in Israel, as well as praise Indian caregivers within the country for their very commendable service “far away from their homes and families.” She visited Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust. She also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Infrastructure Minister Yuval Shteinitz, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.
“Israel and India are at the cutting edge of so many areas of innovation, and by working together we can do a lot more for our peoples and for the world,” said Netanyahu. “So we admire India. We view India as a great friend, and it’s in that spirit of friendship that I welcome you here in Jerusalem.”
“India attaches the highest importance to the full development of wide-ranging ties with Israel,” said Swaraj in a press conference alongside Netanyahu.
Vijeta Uniyal, a senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute think tank and founder of Indians for Israel, called Swaraj “the most articulate and gifted orator of my generation.”
“Ms. Swaraj has long-standing ties with Israel. Her diplomatic initiative can further enhance the ongoing bilateral cooperation in the fields of higher education, industry and technology. This fruitful synergy is already providing viable and affordable solutions to answer the challenges of rapid urbanization that India faces today,” said Uniyal.
Coming after President Mukherjee’s diplomatic visit—and ahead of an expected trip by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who plans to visit Israel in the near future—Swaraj’s trip is viewed as a considerable strengthening of bilateral ties between Israel and India. She demonstrated a clear desire for closer relations with Israel in her promotion of a pro-Israel foreign policy.
Bradley Martin is a fellow for the Haym Salomon Center and a Research Assistant for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.
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