Jerusalem:  Israel is a "natural ally" of India, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said on Tuesday as he sought a strategy with the Jewish state to "checkmate" the scourge of international terrorism.
   
Krishna, the first Indian foreign minister to visit Israel in over a decade, met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said, international terrorism is a "problem" for both countries and emphasised on need for greater bilateral trade relations.
   
"India is a natural ally of Israel in all these frontiers of science. I look forward to an increased economic content to our existing areas of cooperation," he said, ahead of his breakfast meeting with Netanyahu.
   
Krishna said India has learnt so much from Israel, particularly in the field of agriculture and science and technological innovation.
   
Krishna said terrorism is a "problem" that is being commonly faced by both Israel as well as India.
   
"So I think we will have to workout a strategy as how we address ourselves to the scourge of international terrorism which has become a curse for the entire humanity.
   
"I think our efforts should be to checkmate it and ultimately eradicate terror from the face of the earth," Krishna said.
   
Netanyahu responded by saying that he was looking forward to discussing "all areas of cooperation". Krishna's comments came in the backdrop of increasing cooperation between Tel Aviv and New Delhi in the field of homeland security and defence.

On Monday, Krishna called on Israeli President Shimon Peres who described India as the "greatest democracy on earth". He also said Israel wants New Delhi to become a permanent member of the expanded United Nations Security Council. Peres said Tel Aviv was following New Delhi with "great care and interest".
   
Israel has emerged as the second biggest defence supplier to New Delhi after Russia.
   
From a buyer-seller relationship, both India and Israel are now trying to branch out to joint research and development initiatives.
     
Sources said that after Mumbai attacks, India recognized Israel's expertise in Homeland Security and related sectors. Many Israeli companies are active in India providing their services to the public and private sectors.
   
Both the countries are in discussion on a Free Trade Agreement and Israeli Prime Minister on Tuesday said he believes that it will have a multiplier effect on the bilateral trade volume.
    
The bilateral trade and economic relations have progressed rapidly in recent years. From a mere USD 200 million in 1992, the bilateral trade with Israel was expected to reach USD 5 billion by last year-end. The figure does not include defence purchases.

India won't come in way of Israel-Pak ties

   
Meanwhile, Krishna said it was up to Israel and Pakistan to decide the kind of ties they want to have after former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf suggested establishing diplomatic ties with the Jewish nation to counter its "pro-India" policy.
   
"I think it is between Israel and Pakistan to decide what kind of relationship they want to establish, as much as it is between Israel and India to decide what kind of relationship we want to establish", Krishna said at a press conference answering a question on the issue.
   
He said it is upto Jerusalem to decide on the issue and New Delhi will not come on the way.
   
"We will certainly not come in the way of Israel having its relationship with any other country because each relationship stand ultimately on the values on which we stand for," the Minister, who is on a two-day visit here to mark 20 years of the establishment of Indo-Israeli diplomatic ties.    

However, Krishna said that India and Israel have a lot in common, being two democracies that are governed by rule of law and adult suffrage among many other things.
   
"So we would certainly like Israel to look into all these", he added.
   
The former Pakistani president in an interview to a daily last weekend said it would be in Pakistan's interest to get closer to Israel to counter the "pro-India" stand usually adopted by Israel.
   
He said closer ties with Israel could help Pakistan in countering India on the Kashmir dispute.
   
Musharraf had said the Jewish state is a fait accompli A d relations with it can help Islamabad come closer to the strong Jewish lobby in the US.
   
The influential Jewish lobby takes a strong anti-Pakistan stand on Kashmir because of Israel's close ties with New Delhi, he said.

(Agencies)