Benjamin Netanyahu calls for closer alliance among democracies to combat terror

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New Delhi: The quest for modernity is challenged by terrorism which can cause widespread damage in the international system, upsetting the established order, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, advocating a closer alliance among democracies of the world to meet this challenge.

Netanyahu said this in his remarks to the opening session of the Raisina Dialogue, a conference organized by India’s ministry of foreign affairs in collaboration with the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation with the theme— “Managing Disruptive Transitions”.

Netanyahu is only the second Israeli prime minister to visit India—the first such visit took place in 2003 when Ariel Sharon came to New Delhi at the invitation of then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The visit marks the close of celebrations commemorating 25 years of India’s diplomatic ties with Israel. It comes six months after Prime Minister Modi paid a stand-alone visit to Israel, the first ever by an Indian prime minister, bringing ties “out of the closet.”

Referring to Israel’s transition from a country that had nothing much to boast of in 1948 to the strides it has made in technology, innovation and defence, Netanyahu said that the Jewish nation had to learn quickly that the “The weak don’t survive, the strong survive, you make alliances with the strong, you are able to maintain peace by being strong. So, therefore the first requirement from the time of our first PM Ben Gurion was to achieve minimal strength required to assure existence,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli prime minister said he understood the value of soft power but in Israel’s case “hard power is often better.” And hard power was derived mainly from equipping oneself with the best that defence technology had to offer. But keeping up with the latest in defence technology costs money and this can only be sustained by economic power, Netanyahu said.

Shoring up economic power would mean investing in education and allowing creativity to flourish in an environment that is free of restrictions, he said. Building up defence and economic power would in turn lead to creation of political power, i.e., the ability to make political alliances, the Israeli prime minister said.

He pointed to his recent visits to Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, North America and Australia in the past year—something seen as impossible in the past given Israel’s pariah status due to its conflict with the Arab world over the issue of a separate state of Palestine.

Currently, Israel has ties with a growing number of countries in the world and its government was trying to broaden these ties further, Netanyahu said.

An element binding Israel with India is the fact that both are democracies, Netanyahu said, adding that an “alliance of democracies is important to secure our common future, I believe possibilities are endless. In this visit, we have discussed how we can strengthen our two nations in civilian, security and in every area.”

The reference was to talks between Netanyahu and his Indian host Modi in New Delhi on Monday where the two countries outlined a blueprint to catapult ties to the next level in the next 25 years.

The roadmap lays particular emphasis on traditional areas such as defence, homeland security and agriculture besides newer areas like oil and gas and cyber security.

To add further content to the economic relationship, the two sides will hold another round of talks to close a free trade pact with an Indian delegation due to visit Israel next month. The two countries will also hold discussions on a bilateral investment treaty shortly in a bid to encourage two-way investment flows.

The two countries also signed nine pacts to boost cooperation in cyber security, energy, connectivity, space and technology.

On Wednesday, the Israeli prime minister will travel to Modi’s home state of Gujarat where the two leaders will unveil a centre of excellence in agriculture and inaugurate another via video conference.

On Thursday, the Israeli prime minister travels to Mumbai, India’s financial capital, where he will meet business leaders as well as representatives from the Hindi film industry