Jerusalem, Nov 14: Terming India as a "close friend", Israel President Reuven Rivlin has left for New Delhi on a six-day visit to further strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries that he said were places of "innovation and inspiration".
Rivlin, who is arriving with a large delegation of businessmen and academics, will join President Pranab Mukherjee in opening an agro-tech conference in Chandigarh, hold meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and visit several sites of cooperation and joint projects between the two countries.
He will also pay his respects at the sites of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and lay wreaths on the tomb of Mahatma Gandhi and at the memorial for Indian soldiers who fell in the WWI in combat in Israel and the Middle East.
Six Jews were killed at the Mumbai Chabad house during the Mumbai terror attacks which left more than 166 dead.
Rivlin, who will be accompanied on the trip by his wife, will also hold meetings with senior Indian officials and with leaders of the Jewish community.
"I am departing now on an important visit to India, an important ally and close friend of Israel, a state with whom we have much in common," Rivlin said just before leaving for New Delhi yesterday.
"Israel and India are both countries of innovation and of inspiration. Countries that have ancient traditions, but have built strong and thriving hi-tech economies, and now celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations. This visit is a sign of the strong relations and friendship between our peoples, and I hope will plant the seeds for that friendship to grow closer and closer," he said.
The academic delegation accompanying Rivlin includes Presidents and senior representatives of 13 Israeli academic institutions who are expected to sign 15 separate agreements between Israeli and Indian educational institutions.
"The issue of international cooperation in higher education and the expansion of academic ties between Israel and the world - in particular with India - is one of the central aims of the multi-year plan for higher education in Israel," said Yaffa Zilbershats, head the Council for Higher Education's budget committee.
The expansion of academic ties would include student exchanges, joint research projects and the founding of inter-institutional fora to promote academic cooperation between Israeli and India universities and colleges, he noted.
Rivlin, in the past, has complimented the Indian students in Israel, saying "they are among the best" of the lot.
"India represents a great challenge for Israeli manufacturers and this delegation will afford the opportunity to strengthen cooperation and partnership with their Indian counterparts," said Shraga Brosh, President of Manufacturers Association of Israel, who is heading the business delegation.