Tel Aviv: Senior Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum have congratulated India on its 75 years of independence, emphasising on its growing influence as a regional and global power and emergence as an innovation superpower that could help in changing the world for the better.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Monday evening attended an event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence and 30 years of full diplomatic relations between India and Israel attended by hundreds of Indians and local India enthusiasts.
“India’s influence as a regional and global power is steadily on the rise, and I am confident that the greater your level of engagement, the greater the positive change,” Herzog said.
“Israel shares in this marvelous celebration of national Indian pride. We send our warmest wishes for peace and prosperity and we look forward to working with you, side by side, to secure the promise of a brighter future. Mazal tov!”
The Israeli President highlighted “clear parallels” in India’s historical triumph and Israel’s national story.
Both ancient nations, enriched by centuries of teachings and heritage, intertwined throughout history, and achieved independence within the same year, he said.
“We will celebrate our 75th in a few months’ time. Today, just a few decades later, we find our two modern republics proudly bound together by creativity and democracy, by ingenuity coupled with deep respect for timeless faiths and belief systems, which transcend time,” he noted.
“Israel and India both aim for equality and prosperity, we both face challenges, internal and external; and we are both open to expanding partnerships,” Herzog added.
“By joining forces, working together to maximise our strengths, whether in science or agriculture, hi-tech or green tech, and so much more, we can generate deep change for our two peoples,” he said.
Herzog said Israel cherishes its growing relationship with India and strong friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom he had met a few years back during his state visit.
He pointed out the I2U2 Group, which convened recently during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, and included India, Israel, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates, as “tangible evidence” that “we hold in our hands the power to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity from here to India and back.”
“By the way, we can now do it in a five-hour flight,” he said in a lighter vein in reference to direct flights between the two countries passing over Saudi and Omani airspace.
The Israeli president also extended his warm wishes to the newly elected Indian President, Draupadi Murmu, inviting her to Israel and also expressing his wish to visit India.
In a virtual address to the gathering, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid described India as an innovation superpower changing the world for the better and expressed his country’s wish as a partner, ally and friend to be a part of India’s emerging story.
“India is a proud democracy rooted in deep history and tradition. It is also an innovation superpower changing the world for the better,” Lapid said.
“That’s why Israelis love India and Indian people. That’s why tens of thousands of Israelis visit India each year,” he noted.
Highlighting that India and Israel are marking 30 years of diplomatic relations as well this year, Lapid emphasised on the launch of the groundbreaking I2U2 forum.
Today as we celebrate all that India has achieved over the past 75 years, we look forward to the next 75 and beyond. We look forward to seeing the next chapter in India’s wonderful story unfold, and we are excited to be a part of the story as a partner, ally and friend,” he said.
Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz, extending his warm wishes to India, called for further deepening of excellent defence ties that could contribute to global peace and stability.
The leader of the Opposition and former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose “excellent chemistry” with Prime Minister Modi received wide attention in the past also attended the event with his wife Sara.
“It took us too many decades to form the bond of friendship but once we bonded, it is unbelievable,” Netanyahu asserted.
“We are happy with your happiness, we grieve with your sadness, and we have a brilliant future together. When you have good days, we are ecstatic, when you have less good days, we are with you,” the Israeli leader said, hinting at an all-weather partnership.
“But I think our days together are incredible,” he stressed.
Israeli Parliament’s (Knesset) Speaker, Mickey Levy, also congratulated India on the 75th anniversary of its independence day in a tweet.
India’s Ambassador to Israel, Sanjeev Singla, welcoming the guests mentioned that the bilateral diplomatic ties were upgraded to full ties during the current President’s father’s term in the same office pointing out that there were some people in the audience who had seen India’s first ambassador presenting his credentials to then President Chaim Herzog 30 years ago.
Recalling President Chaim Herzog’s words, If it is people who shape history, it is also history that shapes people, Singla emphasised that indeed the civilisational bonds between India and Israel enrich our contemporary understanding.
“Down the centuries, a Jewish community thrived in India in harmony with other communities. And, it is rare in Jewish history that you have had a long, continuous period where you have thrived in freedom and equality, as you did in India. And I must say that we Indians are proud of that,” Singla noted, stressing the well-known fact that India was one of those rare places where there was no trace of anti-semitism.
The Indian envoy applauded the role of the Indian Jewish community as “a positive and industrious force” that has supported Israel’s nation-building and helped in connecting “our two countries.”
“Today, they form an organic linkage between our two nations. We recognise and value their contribution, and those of others, who have helped our relationship grow. And for several decades, the Indian diaspora elsewhere too has supported these efforts,” he said.
“So when Maestro Zubin Mehta conducts the national anthems of Israel and India, as he did at the Israel Philharmonic a few weeks ago, we are rightfully proud,” Singla emphasised.
Further, hundreds of Indian soldiers fought in this land during the First World War, and many of them made the supreme sacrifice. These included some Indian Jewish soldiers, he said.
“The tale of the valiant cavalry charge by Indian soldiers that liberated the city of Haifa in September 1918 is of course very well known. What is less well known are the sacrifices made by other soldiers in other parts of the land,” he noted.
“While memorials to Indian soldiers exist at cemeteries in Jerusalem, Haifa and Ramleh, we are now in the process of establishing an India Trail to mark the major battles fought by Indian soldiers in the Holy Land.
Singla emphasised on the relationship between the two countries moving “into a qualitatively different trajectory” following the elevation of bilateral relations to a “strategic partnership” during the July 2017 visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel.
Over the past 30 years, India’s political, trade, cultural, tourism, and people-to-people relations with Israel have grown tremendously, he added.
Today, the bilateral trade has crossed USD 7.8 billion and both countries are now pursuing a Free Trade Agreement which could serve as a foundation to expand our trade and investment ties in the coming decades, he said.
Contending that India and Israel also share similar challenges to their society from radicalism and terrorism, apart from many other fundamental geo-political and geo-economic changes that are underway in the two geographies, Singla said that it is imperative that the two countries have an ever-closer partnership.
“As we mark the 30th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between India and Israel, as India completes the 75th year of her independence, and as India’s people script India’s story for the coming decades, we could start new voyages and cover new horizons,” Singla concluded.
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