India and Israel continue to draw closer as Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu made a powerful speech at a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi. Both India and Israel share a common threat with Islamic terrorism. Yet, relations between Israel and India go back centuries as Jews enjoyed of freedom of religion for over two thousand years in the ancient Hindu country.
In modern times the two countries have had a rocky history, but a grass roots relationship has built over the last 2 decades which has finally expanded into the governments of both peoples.
Below is the Prime Minister’s speech in full as provided to us by the Government Press Office:
“Thank you my friend, Prime Minister Modi, Narendra. Thank you for your exceptional friendship and hospitality that you showed me, my wife, and our delegation. I was deeply moved today in the celebration at the ceremony. It was an expression not only of the honor you showed me but the honor you showed the people of Israel and the State of Israel. You are a revolutionary leader in the best sense of the word ‘revolution’. You are revolutionizing India. You are catapulting this magnificent state into the future and you have revolutionized the relationship between Israel and India.
I’m the son of a historian. Our peoples have had thousands of years of history. India and Israel are two of the most ancient civilizations on earth and yet it is an amazing fact that until you visited Israel no leader of India in 3,000 years of our own sovereign existence and our history has visited Israel. You are the first leader of a state, of an Indian state to do this. So it was a groundbreaking visit. It excited the imaginations of all Israelis and of course of the many Israelis of Indian descent, of origin, who came and were…how shall I say this…well I thought I was in a rock concert but it was a historic event as well.
We are ushering today a new era in our relations. We’ve had diplomatic relations for 25 years but something different is happening now because of your leadership and because of our partnership. There are three things that bind our countries together: The first is that we have an ancient past. The second is that we have a vibrant present. And the third is that we are seizing together a promising future. We are proud of our past, our rich histories, our peoples’ contributions to human civilization in language, in literature, in mathematics and medicine, in philosophy and faith. The greatest texts that human beings produced are in Sanskrit and in Hebrew. None greater and none more enduring and we never forget this.
More recently, you mentioned, just a century ago, brave Indian soldiers played a vital role in the liberation of the State of Israel and the land of Israel. This led to our Independence. And yesterday I was again deeply moved as we paid tribute to these brave Indian fighters and commanders who gave their lives in that historic fight. We honor their memory as you mark today Indian Army Day. We are proud of our present, of our resilient democracies. Our people are free to say what they want, do what they want, believe what they want and these values and our diversity are not a source of our weakness but the source of our strength. Evidence of this abounds in India where you hear a symphony of dozens of languages and dialects and where Jews, and you mentioned this yesterday Prime Minister, you mentioned the fact that makes India stand out in the community of nations because over 2,000 years the Jews of India have never experienced anti-Semitism as our people experienced in so many other lands. This is a tribute to your civilization, to your tolerance, to your humanity.
Israelis and Indians are bound by the kinship of free peoples but I believe that democracy cannot be taken for granted. Despite the doubts, despite the challenges, India and Israel are living proof not only that democracy works but they demonstrate something deeper – the intrinsic value of freedom which I believe is the intrinsic value of life. Citizens thrive ultimately it is the free citizens who thrive because they are free and when they are free.
Finally, we are proud that we are seizing the future so we can make a better life for our peoples and for others around the world. Our commitment to do so is reflected in the manifold agreements that we sign today in cyber, in aviation, in energy, even in cinema. My wife and I are very happy that we are going to Bollywood, we’d like to see it firsthand, and so many other areas.
Israel is a fountainhead of innovation. It’s a global force of technology. India abounds with creativity, with ingenuity, with scientists, with mathematicians and I think that when we join our respective talents together we can achieve tremendous things for our people. We can actually achieve…you say we want more…Prime Minister Modi and I are the same. We want more for our people, we want it now, we want it yesterday. But one of the things that Israel brings to this world of innovation is that we achieve more with less. More crops with less water, more energy with less expenditure of money. More with less. We want more, a lot more and we can do that even more productively by cooperating.
When you and I walked shoeless along the Mediterranean shore, we drank sea water that was purified before our eyes using technology that will save untold lives. India and Israel are working together to provide clean water, to increase crop yields, to keep our people safe from terrorism and other challenges to the future we both seek.
You mentioned the areas: Agriculture where I presented to Prime Minister Modi an idea of revolutionizing Indian agriculture as we’re revolutionizing Israeli agriculture – precision agriculture that goes down to the individual plant. Some plants need more water, some less. We can see it today with big data, with drones, with other instruments of technology to make farmers produce much more crops. More crops with less. We’re talking about cooperation in science and technology in every field and we’re talking about cooperation in defense so that our people are always safe and always secure.
Indians and Israelis know too well the pain of terrorist attacks. We remember the horrific savagery in Mumbai. We grit our teeth, we fight back, we never give in.
My friend last night you again showed us your tremendous hospitality and when you hosted Sara and me at your home so graciously it was brilliantly lit, illuminated by the national colors of India and Israel and I thought at that moment about your honesty, your passion, you vision, your commitment and it fills me with hope, hope that this new era of India-Israel relations will bring unprecedented benefits to India, to Israel, to all humanity.
And finally and this is perhaps the most important statement that I can make here – my friend Narendra, any time you want to do a yoga class with me it’s a big stretch but I’ll be there. Trust me.
Thank you very very much. Thank you my friend.”