The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee paid the first State visit to Israel from October 13-15, 2015. He was accompanied by a high level delegation including Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Members of parliament, senior officials, and media representatives.
The trip comes amid ongoing efforts to boost ties between the India and Israel. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office last year, has made developing cooperation with Israel a focus for his government’s diplomatic policies.
During the visit, the President had meetings and interactions with the President Mr. Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the speaker of the Israeli Parliament, Knesset, Mr. Yuli-Yoel Edelstein.
President also addressed the Knesset (Israel Parliament) during the visit. The two sides signed a number of MoUs in the fields of culture, education, science and technology.
1. A Cultural Exchange Programme for 2015-2018.
2. The amendment to the protocol on Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement: The pact on tax avoidance will help plug loopholes in tax evasion and ensure that the Indian or Israeli companies are taxed only where they have permanent establishments.
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 July, 2015 India abstained in a vote on a UN Human Rights Council resolution that backed a report critical of Israel’s behavior during last summer’s war in Gaza. The Palestinians were “shocked” at India’s move, said the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to India, Adnan Abu Alhaija.
Although New Delhi emphasized that its vote did not signify any change in its policy of support for the Palestinian cause, India’s abstention was celebrated in Israel as a remarkable diplomatic achievement.
Speaking at the University of Jordan in Amman — where he arrived on route to Israel — Mukherjee said that closer ties with Israel did not change India’s position on the Palestinian issue. “India’s traditional support to the Palestinian cause remains steadfast and unwavering while we pursue strong relations with Israel,” he stated.
India has sought closer defense ties with Israel in recent years, but has also looked to keep from offending hundreds of millions of Muslims who call India home.
Since 1999 India has become the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment. In October 2014, India agreed to a $525 million deal to buy Israel’s guided Spike missiles, which were widely used by the IDF during the previous summer’s Operation Protective Edge. Israeli arms manufacturers have reportedly sold approximately $8 billion worth of weapons systems to India, representing roughly 15 percent of total sales, as of 2012.
In addition to meeting Netanyahu, 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.
India established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992 and since then the relationship has evolved into a multi-dimensional partnership. No Indian Prime Minister or President has visited that country so far. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also has plans to visit the Jewish nation.
The two countries are engaged in a range of issues of bilateral interest including cooperation in agriculture, science & technology, education, etc.
The visit will further cement bonds of cooperation between the two sides and enhance mutual understanding. President will also graced a function organized by our Embassy in Tel Aviv for the Indian community in Israel.
On the last day of his historic first trip to Israel, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee extended an invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit India, which would be only the second visit there by an Israeli prime minister.