Delhi, February 10, 2004

It is a great pleasure to be here on my first visit to India, and I would like to open by thanking my colleague, Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha, for his warm reception.

We have just concluded a friendly and constructive meeting in which we discussed a variety of subjects concerning the relations between our two countries, as well as international issues that impact on peace and security in our region and in the world.

Israel views India as a friendly country, and one which plays a role of prime importance in the world and in Asia. As democratic states and societies, India and Israel share the belief in the values of democracy and freedom. These beliefs find expression in our policies and in the way we both deal with national challenges coming from within and without.

Terror is an enemy which threatens our common values and our shared way of life. Together with the international community, and as victims of terrorism, Israel and India are partners in the battle against this enemy.

As we begin the second decade of diplomatic relations with India, Israel aspires to expand our excellent and friendly ties in all fields and to bring their great potential to fruition for mutual benefit. In this context, I am pleased to announce that Israel will shortly reopen its Consulate in Mumbai – a step which I am sure will help give renewed impetus to our important and growing ties.

Israel has been following with appreciation the efforts of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vagpayee, and his government, to promote peace, security and stability in South Asia. My host has briefed me on the latest developments in this regard and I welcome the progress that is being made.

India’s economy has also made impressive progress in the last few years and we have discussed ways to further promote the economic relations between us in various fields.

I of course used the opportunity of this meeting to brief Foreign Minister Sinha on Israel’s policies, our efforts to achieve peace with our neighbors and our positions on issues regarding Israel’s relations with the Palestinians and with other Middle East countries. While Israel is determined to continue its uncompromising fight against terrorism, the Government of Israel is also faithfully pursuing every genuine opportunity to advance political arrangements that could lead to a lasting peace in our region, a peace that would bring prosperity and renewed hope to all the peoples in the Middle East.

With the help and support of key players in the international community such as India, I am confident that we can achieve these important and shared objectives.

Thank you.