India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi considers strengthening bilateral ties with Israel to be of the “highest importance” during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
“Our bilateral cooperation has developed well in a number of areas over the past two decades. But the potential of our relationship is much more,” Swaraj told Netanyahu on her first official visit to the region.
Welcoming Swaraj, Netanyahu hailed the increasing cooperation between Jerusalem and New Delhi in the fields of science, technology, defense, agriculture and health.
“Israel and India are at the cutting edge of so many areas of innovation, and by working together we can do a lot more for our peoples and for the world,” the prime minister said.
“And we want to do more,” Netanyahu added.
During their meeting, Netanyahu screened a short video clip on Palestinian incitement featuring statements by top Palestinian Authority officials and anti-Israel racism on PA TV and in schools. Netanyahu said Palestinian incitement was responsible for Sunday’s murder of Dafna Meir and Monday’s stabbing of Michal Froman.
Swaraj expressed her condolences and condemned both terror attacks.
Swaraj also met with President Reuven Rivilin, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, and deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely.
The visit was seen as a sign of flowering defense and diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and New Delhi, which have included high level visits between officials in recent months.
Swaraj is the third Indian foreign minister to visit Israel ever and her trip is seen as a precursor to an expected visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has urged stronger ties with Israel.
India has taken pains at the same time to show it is unbiased vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
On Sunday, Swaraj visited Ramallah for talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki.
Homage to Gandhi & solidarity with the Palestinian people. EAM lays flowers at the bust of the Mahatma in Ramallah pic.twitter.com/937dWHRNYw
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) January 17, 2016
While in Ramallah, she laid wreaths at the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a bust of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi.
“India’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and its principled support to the Palestinian cause is rooted in our own freedom struggle,” Swaraj said at a speech at Al-Quds University, according to Indian media.