New Delhi: Israel's Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana on Friday called India one of Israel's closest and dearest friends. He called it a distinct pleasure to have been invited to India.

Knesset Speaker made the statement during a meeting with Parliament Speaker Om Birla. "It is a great honour for me to be here with you today. This is indeed not only my first visit to India but also the first visit of any speaker of the Knesset in an official visit to India. And it is my distinct pleasure to have been invited specifically to India, one of Israel's closest and dearest friends and the world's largest democracy," Amir Ohana said.

"When I had to decide where to make my first official visit as speaker of the Knesset, India stood up with all the other countries. We saw it not only as a dear friend but also as a rising power in the world in many, many fields," he added.

Amir Ohana said that Israel and India are marking 31 years of diplomatic ties. He said, "Our countries are marking 31 years of full diplomatic relations. What started as ties between two ancient civilizations with rich histories and tremendous respect for our traditions, is now a friendship based on common interests in almost every aspect of life. We also share a deep historical connection."

He further said, "Over the years, our relations have grown warmer and I'm happy to note that today the friendship and trust between us is fertile, is a fertile ground for closer cooperation on a variety of issues. I am delighted that earlier today I had the privilege to have signed a Memorandum of Understandings with my dear colleague Shri Om Birla detailing our common intention to strengthen our relationship over the coming years."

Referring to the Jews community living in India, Amir Ohana said, "Jews have lived peacefully in India for thousands of years, and those Jews who came to Israel from India served as a solid bridge between our two nations. It is actually one of the only nations on earth where Jews could live peacefully for thousands of years without any recognition of antisemitism, which is an unknown term in this country and we are thankful for that."

The Israeli Parliamentary Delegation led by Amir Ohana called on Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla at Parliament House on Friday. At the outset, Birla welcomed the delegation to India and said that Israel and India have traditionally enjoyed close and friendly relations.

Notably, the Israeli Parliamentary Delegation, which is on an India visit till April 4, was jointly invited by the Vice President and Chairperson of Rajya Sabha and the Speaker of Lok Sabha.

Birla underscored that India and Israel share a robust democratic heritage and as fellow democracies, both countries have many similarities, which include respecting diverse cultures, following democratic values, and working as per the hopes and aspirations of the people. He also observed that in the changing global dynamics, the relations between India and Israel have become more important.

While speaking about the strong parliamentary relations between the two Parliaments, Lok Sabha Speaker expressed happiness at the formation of a Parliamentary Friendship Group for India in the Knesset. Birla emphasized that both Parliaments should work together at international fora and accordingly prepare an action plan based on collective discussion and dialogue.

Om Birla further suggested that both Parliaments must share experiences, best practices and technology to deal with global challenges and to ensure mutually beneficial outcomes across a range of situations. Speaking about regular high-level visits between the two countries over the years, Birla said that such visits have added new energy to bilateral relations.

In the context of the technological dominance of India and Israel in different scientific fields, Birla said that Israel is a world leader in agri-technology. He mentioned that people from around the world seek to emulate the technological progress that Israel has made. Birla said through mutual collaboration both nations can learn from each other and reap the benefits of technological progress.