Participants in the sixth Israel India forum met with President Shimon Peres on
Most of them had previously met with Peres in Israel, India or
Davos, said one of the forum’s co-chairmen, Jamshyd Godrej. He is chairman and
managing director of Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited, the
Mumbai-based consumer durables holding company.
The forum – which focuses
on international financial and economic trends and their impact on the economies
and ties of the two countries – convenes annually, alternating between Israel
and India. In addition, several of its Indian members have business interests in
Israel and visit the country periodically.
Godrej recalled his own first
meeting with Peres in Davos, Switzerland, at what had been an historic occasion
when Peres shook the hand of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser
The forum, comprising policy-makers, captains of industry,
academics and diplomats, is a joint endeavor of the Aspen Institute India, Tel
Aviv University and the Confederation of Indian Industry.
It is supported
by several charitable trusts and foundations.
It is one of several
organizations dedicated to the enhancement of political, economic and defense
relations between Israel and India.
Godrej said that the relationship
between the two countries is an important one. India and Israel have grown close
politically and economically, he said, “and there is a robust engagement on
Peres focused on cultural ties and the common history of
being freed from British rule, though toward the end of a one-and-a-half hour
monologue, he did say that India could be of help in alleviating some of the
tensions of the Middle East by telling the Arabs how to escape
The Arabs are under the impression that foreign aid will do it,
but it won’t, said Peres, underlining that many of the donors are now in crisis
themselves, aside from which most of the donors are democratic and the receivers
of their benevolence are not.
The answer is not money, he said. The
answer is introducing Arab societies to science and technology.
course of his address, the president gave a passing mention to China, which he
frequently refers to as an outstanding example of an economic revolution and an
escape from poverty..
Israel entered into full diplomatic relations with
China and India in 1992, at which time the volume of trade between Israel and
China and between Israel and India, hovered around the $200 million mark. In the
interim, the volume of trade with China has increased to around $10 billion and
with India to around $5b.
Stanley Bergman, another co-chairman of the
forum, and chairman and CEO of Melville, New York-based Henry Schein Inc., a
Fortune 500 company and the largest distributor of dental, medical and
veterinary products and services to office-based healthcare practitioners in
North America and Europe, with more than 11,000 employees and operations in 19
countries, told Peres that discussions at this year’s forum focused on cyber
technology, innovation, energy and bilateral trade.
Endorsing the work of
the forum, Peres emphasized the importance of continuing dialogue at all levels
of humanity around the globe, because as yet, there are not enough answers to
solve all the problems confronting humanity.
Speaking of changing norms
in an ever-evolving world, Peres mentioned the crisis in political leadership
whereby politicians, seeking popularity, no longer fight for popular causes, but
get themselves interviewed on television.
“When television becomes the
arena of leadership, the people elected are good on television but not on
leadership,” he said.
On a more personal note, he made the point that
people who have reached socalled retirement age should not be forced to stop
working. This has become an bigger issue with the increase of life expectancy,
he observed, saying that for many people having to stop work is a tragedy, and
not a drawn out vacation.
“I don’t know the joy of a vacation,” said the
90-yearold Peres, who works a 12- to 14-hour day. “I only know the joy of work.”