New Delhi, Sept. 8: Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived here tonight for a four-day official trip amid protests from Muslim groups and Left parties, which accuse the hardline leader of killing innocent Palestinians in the name of fighting terrorism.
Realising the anti-Sharon mood in the country, Atal Bihari Vajpayee today told reporters that the first prime ministerial visit from Tel Aviv would strengthen India’s growing ties with Israeli but would in no way dilute its traditional support to the Palestinian cause.
The Prime Minister had made this clear during the recent visit of Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Sha’ath, but decided to repeat this stand again.
Sharon’s main meeting is scheduled for tomorrow when he will interact with Vajpayee and other senior leaders and officials on issues of mutual concern and also give his side of the story of the West Asian crisis.
The Israeli leader’s visit is aimed at strengthening the two pillars on which bilateral ties rest: cooperation in defence and the economic and trade front. A large business delegation is accompanying the Israeli Prime Minister and many of the delegates represent key defence industries in Israel.
Sharon will also address captains of Indian business in Delhi and Mumbai to sell Israel as an attractive investment destination.