New Delhi: Speaking in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and a host of international delegates, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at “radical Islam and its militant options” from the podium of the Raisina Dialogue conference, saying that the “challenge” can be overcome by strengthening India-Israeli ties. The Israeli PM also hailed the “India-Israel alliance”, saying that only the “strong survive”.
“Our way of life is being challenged, most notably the quest for modernity, the quest for innovation is being challenged by radical Islam and its militant options from a variety of corners. This can upset the international system. I think one of the ways to overcome such a challenge is to strengthen the relationship between our two great democracies. The alliance of democracies, I think, is important to secure our common future,” Mr Netanyahu said, as Mr Modi listened in the audience.
“The weak don’t survive. The strong survive. You make peace and alliances with the strong,” he said, adding: “We believe in India as you believe in Israel. May God bless the India-Israel alliance.” He further said: “We have discussed in the visit how we can strengthen our two nations in civilian areas, in security areas.”
Israel has had a turbulent relationship with the Islamic world for decades due to the Palestinian issue, but the reference to “radical Islam” may be calculated to strike a resonance among many in India, which is battling the terrorism of Pakistan-based terror outfits like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. Interestingly, however, while Israel considers Iran to be the epicentre of terrorism, India considers Pakistan as being so. Israel is also battling radical outfits and accuses Iran of backing these.
Netanyahu said the “secret of Israel” was that its roots lay in ancient traditions, while its branches and leaves reached out to the sky “like an enquiring mind”. He said it was the “same with India” and that this “characterises our two people”. The Israeli PM also praised Mr Modi for the rapid rise in India’s ranking in the ease of doing business over the past three years.
Speaking about the public support in India for friendship with Israel, Mr Netanyahu mentioned his trip to Agra (to visit the Taj Mahal) earlier in the day. “We are naturally sympathetic to India. When I walk on the streets of India like I just did in Agra, I saw the sympathy and friendship of people. Somebody said to me, ‘We are so happy that you are friends with our Prime Minister… We are friends with you, we are friends with Israel. It’s a natural friendship and a natural partnership’.”
The Israeli PM also spoke about various aspects of “power” such as “military power, economic power and political power”, and also the importance of the values of democracy. “Defence costs a great deal of money,” he said, pointing out that military power was dependent on economic power. He described political power as the ability to form strong alliances, pointing out how he had visited countries in all continents last year. Speaking after Mr Netanyahu, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said Israel was a reliable friend in not just the defence sector but also other sectors like water and agriculture.