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'India one of most imp countries'

Israeli PM said his visit would help get "many things together".

india Updated: Sep 09, 2003 20:12 IST

Terming India as "one of the most important countries", Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday said his visit here would help strengthen relations between the two countries and achieve "many things together in many fields".

"We are very much interested in developing and strengthening our relations with India because India is one of the most important countries in the world," he told reporters at a ceremonial reception in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Warmly welcoming Sharon, the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said he was confident that this "historic" visit would further cement ties between New Delhi and Tel Aviv.

Sharon, who arrived here on Monday on a three-day visit, is heading a 124-member delegation which includes top representatives of Israeli defence industries.

Bringing "greetings" from Jerusalem, the place of the Jewish people for the "last 3,000 years," Sharon thanked Vajpayee for having him as a guest here and, in turn, invited the Prime Minister to visit Israel.

"We believe in democracy... I hope my visit will contribute to strengthening our relations with India," Israeli Prime Minister said after inspecting a tri-service guard of honour.

"I think we can do many things together in many fields. I think this visit will help us to move forward to accomplish all those things that we believe in," Sharon added.

Vajpayee said, "Our ties are old and we are giving a new shape to them. Our friendship will grow further. This is a historic visit and as a result of it, our two countries will come closer."

The two leaders shook hands warmly and posed for photographs. India and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1992.

Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, several ministers and top military and civilian officials were present at the ceremonial reception.

First Published: Sep 09, 2003 10:41 IST