Krishna in Israel, focus on trade and security

Jerusalem: External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today arrived here on a two-day visit to Israel, the first by an Indian Foreign Minister in over a decade, that comes amidst political turmoil in the Middle East. Krishna drove down from Jordan via the Allenby Bridge border post and was received by Indian envoy to Israel Navtej Sarna and officials of the Israeli Foreign Ministry here.

Krishna, who is on a visit to the Middle East, had met his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh on Sunday. The Minister`s visit to Jordan came close on the heels of Amman playing host to Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on January 3, the first in more than a year. The visit by Krishna is being seen as a means to understand the recent developments in the region.

India looks at Jordan as a key nation in the region which is trying to revive the Middle East peace process, sources said, adding the country was also important for India`s food security. Jordan is one of the crucial providers of fertiliser inputs like rock phosphate, phosphoric acid and potash.

Sources said various issues including the Arab Spring were discussed during the meeting between Krishna and Judeh. Krishna was apprised of the situation in the region and the Minister commended the Jordanian effort on the peace initiative between Israel and Palestinian Authority. Krishna is understood to have told his Jordanian counterpart that there is no problem that dialogue cannot solve issues and also reaffirmed India`s stand on Palestine.

On the bilateral front, Jordan wished for a further cooperation at business to business level and expressed keenness to have a joint venture with India on supplying fertilizers. Jordan also expressed interest in providing visa on arrival facility for Indians and pitched for an increase in bilateral trade.

Meanwhile, during his visit here, Krishna is expected to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, besides holding talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Cooperation in defence, security, agriculture and science and technology are expected to figure prominently in the discussions amid India`s keenness to widen the scope of partnership in the field of defence, the sources said.

They said from a buyer-seller relationship, both sides are looking at expanding their relations. Anti-terror cooperation is also expected to figure in the discussions, against the backdrop of growth in this aspect of the relationship since the Mumbai 2008 attacks in which six Israeli nationals were killed.

Krishna is scheduled to meet President Peres later in the evening. As per his schedule, Krishna will first visit the Holocaust Memorial and take a tour of the Indian Hospice in Jerusalem. Ambassador Sarna will also be hosting a reception for Krishna in Tel Aviv. Krishna`s visit to Israel assumes significance because the last such trip took place in July 2000 when the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh travelled here.