Asserting that economic relationship is the key to developing Indo-Israel ties, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today asked the Jewish state to look beyond trade for building “long-term stakes” in the Indian economy.
Swaraj, in her address at an Indian community reception here, said India and Israel are expanding cooperation to new areas such as homeland security, innovation, education and science and technology.
Expressing optimism for the future in the growth of bilateral ties, Swaraj said, “to quote your (Israeli) Prime Minister ‘sky is the limit’ for ties between India and Israel.”
“We should work towards a new vision of our important partnership, which should reflect our close friendship and harness fully the potential of our two knowledge economies, Swaraj said.
Swaraj, who is here on her first visit to the West Asia region, earlier in the day held talks with the top Israeli leadership and discussed a wide-range of bilateral and regional issues.
“The economic relationship is the key to developing our bilateral ties. We should move from a trade-based relationship to one that is based on investment, manufacturing and services,” Swaraj said in her address.
“As you know ‘Make in India’ is a priority of our Government. Our flagship schemes of ‘Clean Ganga’, ‘Smart Cities’ or ‘Digital India’ are all areas of Israeli expertise. We encourage you to look beyond trade to build long term stakes in the Indian economy through investment and joint development of products and services,” she said.
The Minister said she had “very good” meetings with n President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders today.
“All of them expressed to me the importance they attach to Israel’s relations with India, as a friend and partner. I wish to assure you that these feelings are reciprocated by the Government and people of India. We attach high priority to India’s relations with Israel,” she said.
Swaraj noted that the bilateral interactions at the political level are also increasing. In this context, she highlighted President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit here last year.
“This first ever visit by the President of India gave a substantial boost to our bilateral relationship. Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the full establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries,” she said.
“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 fields of our engagement,” she said.
Swaraj highlighted that India has always offered the Jewish people a safe and secure home for many centuries.
Advocating closer exchanges between the peoples of the two countries, Swaraj said, “We need many more exchanges between our civil societies, parliamentarians, opinion makers and women. Our students should collaborate in scientific research. Our entrepreneurs should build start-ups together.”
Swaraj also lauded the Indian Jewish community and the friends of India gathered at the reception as she congratulated the Indian caregivers who “are performing very commendable service far away from their homes and families”.
“I also convey my good wishes to the Indian men serving in the UN Disengagement Observer Force. India has always been an important actor in the United Nations and we will continue our role,” she said.
Swaraj said India and Israel had walked a “long distance” together in the short time since the full establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992.
“We have developed close cooperation in critical areas such as agriculture and defence. Indian farmers and soldiers know Israel well because of its innovative technologies. We should also create conditions that stimulate the flow of knowledge in both directions,” she said.
Noting that India and Israel are among the “most vibrant democracies in the world”, Swaraj said yet they do not know enough about how each other’s societies work.
Praising the Indian diaspora, Swaraj said, “India is very proud of its large diaspora. Wherever Indians go they have become model citizens in their adopted countries.”
“They are hardworking, sincere and community-minded. They are the most preferred expatriate community in the Gulf region. The Indian Jewish community in Israel is no different and it always pleases me to see how well they have done here,” she said.
“We would like to see more and more Indian Jews becoming active catalysts in building ties between India and Israel,” she said.
“We have always viewed Israel as an important regional country and share the belief that our partnership will be strengthened further in future,” she concluded.