Indian President Pranab Mukherjee with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
On the last day of his historic first trip to Israel, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee extended an invitation on Thursday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit India, which would be only the second visit there by an Israeli prime minister The invitation came during a working lunch the two held in Jerusalem, during which, according to the Prime Minster’s Office, the two focused on bilateral ties in the fields of security, technology, innovation, and agriculture.
Although Mukherjee did not mention terrorism publicly during his 24-hour stay in the Palestinian Authority at the beginning of the week, and only mentioned it directly on one occasion during his public appearances over the last three days in Jerusalem, the two leaders – according to a statement put out by Israel – “discussed counter-terrorism and advanced policing methods, and agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in this area, including ministerial visits.”
Mukherjee’s visit was the first ever by an Indian president to Israel, and as such was as important for its symbolism as for the substance of the talks. A sitting Indian prime minister has never visited Israel, although current prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to do so in the coming months. Then prime minister Ariel Sharon traveled to India in 2003.
In a special Knesset session honoring Mukherjee at the Knesset on Wednesday, Netanyahu repeatedly referred to Modi as his “friend,” and said they speak regularly.
In addition to meeting Netanyahu on Thursday, the Indian president also received an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University. He received a similar honor this week from Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem, and the University of Jordan, in Amman.
Netanyahu, in remarks to Mukherjee Wednesday evening at a state dinner at the president’s residence, spoke of Israel’s desire to “diversify markets,” with India being a major target.
Netanyahu said that while Israel is “European,” it is “looking to the east.”
“We appreciate Europe,” he said. “We admire Asia.”