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Israeli prime minister seeks 'unity' with India

Sharon said the "embattled democracies" like Israel and India should unite against terrorism.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2003 00:24 IST

Paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday expressed the hope that "embattled democracies" such as Israel and India could unite in the battle against terrorism, for peace and for a better future.

Sharon, who arrived Monday night, visited Rajghat, the tranquil memorial to the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, as he launched his three-day visit.

In his comments in the visitors' book, he wrote: "From Jerusalem, the city of peace, the internal capital of the Jewish people, I bring you a message of hope and peace.

"Today Israel and India are embattled democracies and sharing values and the challenge of terrorism. United in our quest of life, liberty and peace, our joint determination to fight for these values can inspire our hope for a better future for our people."

According to Rajghat secretary Rajnish Kumar, Sharon spent 20 minutes in the soothing environs of the memorial that adjoins one of the busiest roads of the capital.

Escorted by 20-odd officials and security personnel, the Israeli premier paid floral tributes at the polished black granite memorial stone. He was curious about the words "Hey Ram!" inscribed on it.

"When I explained that these were the last words of Gandhi, Sharon appeared deeply moved," Kumar told IANS.

The memorial committee gifted books of Gandhi - his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi in 100 years and The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi.

He was also gifted an audio CD containing photographs of the Mahatma, some discourses in his voice and collected works.

So heartened was Sharon by the visit, according to Kumar, that even as he was getting into his vehicle, he turned around for a last look.

India one of most important countries for Israel

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