Modi's Israel sojourn will go down well with Christians: Naga leaders

Modis Israel sojourn will go down well with Christians: Naga leaders

New Delhi: Close on the heels of a successful Israel trip by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a prominent Naga leader and a former Congress MP Khyamo Lotha has said that improved India-Israel relations would go down well for Christians as Jerusalem is a place of pilgrimage for Christians. Sources close to 77-year-old former Congress MP in Rajya Sabha told UNI here that the aging politician had raised the issue on the need for improvement in Indo-Israel relations way back in 1991. "During Parliament debate and otherwise, Khyamo Lotha had strongly pitched for improved and qualitative boost in bilateral relations between India and Israel in 1991 during the stint of Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao," a source said. "Our MP, now retired from active politics, was possibly the first among Congress leaders to raise the issue that India must have diplomatic relation with Israel. Prior to establishment of bilateral ties, Christians could not go to Israel, even with diplomatic passports," the source said. Besides raising the issue during budget session of 1991, Mr Lotha had also written to the then Prime Minister Rao and complimented and thanked for formally giving his nod for establishing of bilateral ties. "I, as a Christian MP expressed my frank and strong opinion in this matter and demanded establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in the last budget session in Parliament (in 1991). Now that it has come to reality, I am sure Government of India will have a greater role to play and that too more effectively for peace in West Asia," Khyamo Lotha had written to Prime Minister Rao. In fact, sources in Nagaland said, after the ties were established in 1992, several Naga Christians and also from other northeastern states had visited Israel. A few Naga pastors who frequented Israel had also personally met and thanked Khyamo Lotha for playing his small role in the endeavour. "Improved relations with Israel....will go down well," Mr Lotha said. During his visit to Israel last week, Mr Modi struck good rapport with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu and both leaders have obviously vowed to take the relation to new height. Another Naga leader and an Independent legislator Thomas Ngullie also welcomed the manner Mr Modi had handled his engagements in Israel - both social and diplomatic. Mr Ngullie, also a former Information Minister in the state, was particularly delighted over the manner "a grand welcome" was shown to Mr Modi by the Israeli authorities, PM Netanyahu and the people of Israel. "The reception accorded to Prime Minister Modi was in its highest order. The best reception for Modi so far....Mr Netanyahu called Modi a world leader. Bravo," he said. Meanwhile, even as the Prime Minister Modi is credited for taking forward the Indo-Israel relations and pushing a new genre of diplomacy by shedding the past trappings, Narendra Modi's trip and engagements have been often marred by caustic dig and criticism by political rivals.

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