[President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurating the India Palestine Centre for Excellence in ICT, at Al-Quds University, Abu Dees, in Palestine on October 13, 2015.]
Jerusalem: Denouncing any form of violence, President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday voiced concerns over the growing escalation in conflict in Israel and Palestine and said disputes must be resolved peacefully.
Raising the issue on more than one occasion during his three-nation, six-day visit, the president said India was distressed at the recent violence. "India condemns all forms of violence. We have always advocated a peaceful resolution of disputes."
Briefing the media after some of the president's engagements here, including his talks with his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin, his address at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and a meeting with its Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Secretary (West) Anil Wadhwa said Jerusalem was equally concerned.
"They (the Israeli interlocutors) said Israel did not want the upsurge to turn into a religious war."
The remarks by the Indian president come against the backdrop of both Israel and Palestine blaming the other for incidents of violence, which is claiming lives on both sides.
The comments assume greater significance as the president arrived here after visiting Palestine on Tuesday evening, where the leaders wanted New Delhi to strongly take up the issue with the Israelis.
In fact, Mukherjee -- during his various engagements in Palestine -- had assured India's full support for the Palestinian cause, including a separate statehood for its people with East Jerusalem as the capital.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who spoke after Mukherjee's speech, said his country was an island of stability in an unstable region but lamented that there were some radicals who wanted to destroy his people.
"Look at the Palestinians. They are misled by radical groups. These inciters are telling them we are going to destroy the Al Aqsa mosque. We respect all religions and religious places," the Israeli premier said, referring to the cause for the recent escalation in violence.
Some violent confrontations have been taking in the past month with clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police. Palestinians have been protesting against Israel allowing Jewish groups to enter Al Aqsa compound on Jewish holidays.
Netanyahu said he will make sure that no one succeeds in destroying his people.
He also referred to the Mumbai terror attack of 2008, where the Jewish community was also targeted, and said such acts aimed at innocent people had no justification.
"Both our counties are attacked by radical terrorist groups. We are grappling with several challenges," he said. "We must act together against terror groups."
In his address, President Mukherjee avoided any direct mention of the conflict and dwelt more on the growing ties between the two countries.
India and Israel, he said, had much to gain by cooperating in areas like agriculture, defence, education, research, science and cyber security.
"Israeli technological advances can enhance India's industrial production. Collaboration can create more jobs both in India and Israel," he said, and particularly praised his host country for its technological advances and performance in agriculture.
(Arvind Padmanabhan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)