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India, Israel Vow to Unite Against Terrorism - 2003-09-10

Israel and India vowed to unite in the fight against terrorism as the Israeli prime minister concluded a visit to India. Ariel Sharon's visit was cut short by one day due to the most recent suicide bombings in Israel, but both countries have termed the visit a success.

Hours before leaving New Delhi, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said there could be no progress toward peace in the Middle East unless terrorist attacks come to a stop.

He says he is willing to make "painful compromises" to achieve peace, but will never endanger his people's security. Mr. Sharon was addressing business leaders in the Indian capital a day after two deadly suicide attacks hit Israel.

"It is my intention to make every effort to reach an agreement [with the Palestinians], which will ensure security and stability and hopefully lead to real peace in our region in the near future," he said. "But of course that depends on the situation in the region, because one cannot move forward in the political process unless it will be full cessation of terror, hostilities and incitements."

The fight against terror was a dominant theme during Mr. Sharon's visit to New Delhi. The Israeli leader and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee termed terrorism the enemy of freedom and democracy, and vowed to combat the menace.

Both countries see themselves as victims of Islamic militancy.

Mr. Sharon called his Indian visit "the climax of our relations." He met with top Indian leaders, but was forced by the latest bombings at home to cancel a trip to Bombay, where he was to meet the city's business leaders and members of the centuries-old Jewish community.

Indian and Israeli officials say the visit has been a diplomatic success, and has helped consolidate a relationship that has grown steadily in recent years.

Defense and trade issues have been high on the agenda. Mr. Sharon was accompanied by a huge delegation that included business leaders and defense industry officials. Israel is India's largest trading partner in Asia, and an important supplier of defense equipment.

India established diplomatic relations with Israel 11 years ago, and Mr. Sharon is the first Israeli prime minister to visit New Delhi. The visit has been opposed by Indian left-wing groups and Muslims, who are critical of his hard-line policy towards the Palestinians.