External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Israel next week reflects the greater visibility acquired by bilateral relations in the past year-and-a-half and will boost cooperation in areas as diverse as homeland security and water management, Israeli envoy Daniel Carmon said on Wednesday.
“When it comes to bilateral ties, India and Israel walk the walk and talk the talk,” Carmon told a media briefing. The greater visibility of the relationship was “not ceremonial” and the two sides are working closely on “similar challenges and joint interests”, he added.
Swaraj will head to Israel on January 17 for a two-day visit after a brief trip to Palestine. This will be first visit to both countries as the external affairs minister.
She will meet top Israeli leaders, including President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Moshe Ya’alon, and interact with the Jewish-Indian community. Her visit comes a little more than two months after President Pranab Mukherjee’s trip to Palestine and Israel.
Carmon expressed satisfaction that high-level visits by officials of both countries were becoming a “routine event” amid cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism, homeland security, defence, agriculture, watermanagement, academia and innovation.
Swaraj will be updated on developments in West Asia and it was not a coincidence that discussions and cooperation on counter-terrorism are an important aspect of bilateral ties, he said.
Responding to a question on the terror attacks on Pathankot airbase and the Indian consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif and the implications for India-Pakistan ties, Carmon said Israel condemned any form of terrorism but declined to go into details of cooperation with New Delhi on tackling terror threats.
Defence, he said, continued to be a “central pillar” of the bilateral relationship, with recent tests of the Barak-8 surface-to-air missile system in Israel and India reflecting the fruits of cooperation and joint research and development.
Israeli defence firms are “open and flexible” about participating in the “make in India” initiative, he said. “We have moved way beyond a buyer-seller relationship and it is much deeper,” he added.
Carmon began the briefing by paying tribute to Lt Gen JFR Jacob, who died on Wednesday. He described Jacob, who played a crucial role in the Indian victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, as a “proud Jew” and a “living bridge between India and Israel”.