President Reuven Rivlin meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin got to work right away on the first day of his state visit to India Tuesday, meeting with the country’s president and prime minister and discussing working together to combat terrorism and extremism.
Following a welcome ceremony Tuesday morning at the official residence of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, continued on to the tomb of Mahatma Gandhi, the supreme leader of India’s independence movement, laid a wreath and sprinkled petals on the grave – an Indian tradition.
Just over a year has passed since Mukherjee paid a historic state visit to Israel as the first president of India to set foot in the Holy Land since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries almost 25 years ago.
Recalling that Gandhi had been one of the world’s great humanitarians, Rivlin, in signing the guest book, found an appropriate quote from the Bible that could well have been Gandhi’s motto, or that of any great humanitarian: ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Rivlin then proceeded to Hyderabad House for a working meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other high- ranking government officials.
Rivlin and Modi witnessed the signing by representatives of their respective countries of cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding in agriculture and the management of water resources.
Israel and India already cooperate closely in the areas of defense and combating terrorism, but in talks between Rivlin and Modi, it was agreed to strengthen this cooperation even further.
Following the meeting, Modi – in a brief address to his guests and the media – noted that this was Rivlin’s first visit to India and said it would give a “crucial push” to efforts “to build new pillars in our partnership.” He was also convinced that it would carry forward the momentum generated by the first ever visit of a president of India to Israel last year.
Modi underscored that he and Rivlin deeply value the strong and growing partnership between their countries to secure their respective societies.
“Our people are constantly threatened by forces of terrorism and extremism,” he said.
“We recognize that terrorism is a global challenge, knows no boundaries and has extensive links with other forms of organized crime,” emphasizing that he and Rivlin were of one accord in urging the international community to act with resolve and determination against terrorist networks and the states that harbor them.
“Failure to act and silence of speech only encourages the terrorists,” he said, adding: “We agreed to intensify our cooperation to combat the forces of extremism and radicalization that threaten all peace-loving nations.
We also prioritized practical and specific engagement such as in the cyber domain.
We noted the strength of our growing defense partnership, and, agreed on the need to make it more broadbased through production and manufacturing partnerships.”
Rivlin declared that nothing can justify terrorism, saying: “We stand together in defending our people and our values.”
Modi also voiced India’s appreciation for Israel’s “clear support” for India’s permanent candidature in a reformed UN Security Council.
Aside from security issues, Modi listed the multi-dimensional and wide-ranging list of engagements between India and Israel including: enhancing agricultural productivity and efficiency; boosting research and innovation linkages; employing applications of science and technology for the benefit of both societies; forging strong trade links and investment ties; enhancing people- to-people ties through greater cultural and tourism linkages; and promoting educational exchanges.
On Tuesday evening, Mukherjee hosted a state dinner in Rivlin’s honor, at which Rivlin in comparing Israel to India said that although Israel is small size, it is a giant in the sphere of innovation and knowledge.
Drawing inspiration from the colors of the Indian national flag in which the saffron represents strength and courage, the white peace and truth, the green fertility and growth and the blue wheel in the center, the eternal cosmic law, Rivlin applied these virtues to Israel in reference to innovations such as advanced solar energy, water management and irrigation, and getting above average milk yields from cows as only small examples of Israel’s innovation which, overall, defies the imagination.
Mukherjee, meanwhile, noted that both India and Israel had attained independence at more or less the same time and that Gandhi had believed that it was legitimate for the Jews to want a state of their own after what they had experienced in World War II.
At the conclusion of the dinner, Rivlin presented Mukherjee with a copy of A.B. Joshua’s book The Return from India